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Hearing My Prayers

Jun. 21, 2009
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    for my mother & father

You taught my clumsy hands to form a steeple,
fingers pointing upward in the wish for wings
—little hands that swarmed with bugs
when I picked an eyeless wren up from a gutter.
You taught my knees to kneel,
prepared me to embark on darkness,
prepared me for bed: first and final altar
before which we are all acolytes
whispering Suscipiat. I fell asleep
hearing you awake in other rooms.

Now it's my turn to hear your prayers,
voices side-by-side, hands that quelled nightmares
folded forever. I'm listening.

Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite.
My soul to keep my soul to take.
Now I lay me down to wake.
My goodnight kiss, this gentle gibberish.
I tuck you in, lay my hand on your heads.
Close your eyes, peer into darkness.
Don't be afraid. You will find each other,
you will love each other, and I will be born.

    Note: Suscipiat (pronounced Sus-chee-pee-yat)
    is Latin for "Receive." I was an altar boy
    when the Mass was still said in Latin,
    and the Suscipiat was one of the altar boys'
    responses from the Offertory of the Mass:
   Suscipiat Dominus.... ("Receive, O God....")

"Hearing My Prayers" is from Jeff Poniewaz's latest chapbook, Polish for Because—Meditations of a Former St. Josaphat Altar Boy, which is available at Woodland Pattern.


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