Years: 2000, 2001, 2004
Prayer of the Backhanded Not the palm, not the pear tree Switch, not the broomstick, Nor the closest extension Cord, not his braided belt, but God, Bless the back of my daddy’s hand Which, holding nothing tightly Against me and not wrapped In leather, eliminated the air Between itself and my cheek. Make full this dimpled cheek Unworthy of its unfisted print And forgive my forgetting The love of a hand Hungry for reflex, a hand that took No thought of its target Like hail from a blind sky, Involuntary, fast, but brutal In its bruising. Father, I bear the bridge Of what might have been A broken nose. I lift to you What was a busted lip. Bless The boy who believes His best beatings lack Intention, the mark of the beast. Bring back to life the son Who glories in the sin Of immediacy, calling it love. God, save the man whose arm Like an angel’s invisible wing May fly backward in fury Whether or not his son stands near. Help me hold in place my blazing jaw As I think to say excuse me.