PRAYER DOES NOT HAVE TO

whisper with reverence while clouds
                       thicken to purple in the sky.

It can percolate, chortle and climb
                       like Coltrane’s horn in “A Love Supreme,”

probing in fits and squawks, clearing
                       a path upwards, then knocking over

all stones, until there is no right
                       of way, no safe passage, nothing

but tympani and bass drowning
                       all hope in distance. I’ve been

in that room where it’s clear
                       the storm is on its way, where light

diminishes its chord until harmonies
                       fall off each other, breathless.

Let the thunder have its say. Open a door
                       to the sizzling wind. Trust

the score to give each note space,
                       each need voice, until the whole room

vibrates in half tones, raises itself
                       into the sky. This loud song

can find a stable key. This kind of noise
                       can beg light down with a cymbal’s roll.

 

SUMMER, BOTANY LESSON

No matter how many blossoms I point out
           exploding overhead on our neighborhood walk,

my daughter isn’t buying it. She’s in love
           with the sound of bougainvillea, thinks

the word’s so pretty, there’s no way
            it stands for something real. She believes

I made it up, strung long vowels
            and kissy, soft consonants on a strand

of rhythm to make her giggle. I wish
            I could tell a story that would win

her faith, but learn to let it lie. Some truths
            beg for a fight. Some would rather

echo on branches in crooked light
            while you just walk off holding hands.

 

ISLAND DEER

My uncle told us
                       it had been decades
           since they’d grazed.

No grass on their island, they ate
                       fish from shallow pools,
           gnawed gum from shore reeds.

In my dreams, the deer
                      stood motionless
           just beyond our back fence

waiting for one of us
                      to slide plates of roast
           and gravy under the wire.

Night passed without
                     a single twitch—
           only moonlight, slow

breeze and wanting,
                     until morning
           washed our grass clean.

What a slow swim
                     to our land
            they would have had

against the gulf tide,
                     their snouts just above the surface,
            persistent like the heads of turtles.


JACK B. BEDELL is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and Bone-Hollow, True: New & Selected Poems (Texas Review Press, 2013). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.