there was a morning when prayer was
stolen from me: a sunrise when disbelief
gobbled its way across my zipcode——
but then again, no—it was more like a hap-
hazard fall from a tree branch, hung
high on an aged trunk. i climbed that trunk
once with impervious youth; climbed up scratching
bark, past the terrifying checkpoints of
eight-legged spiders and a bucktooth squirrel,
through the fog of amber foliage up to some incalculable
height, where i sat and surveyed the all in all.
from that godward vantage, i grinned and waved at my
disbelieving friends far below.
but being an eighteen-year-old never satisfied,
i colluded with my indomitable self to grab
another branch and scale beyond where
simple-minded squirrels are wise to go. as i
reached, my footing faltered; and as i tore
down infant branches for balance, the natives
charged in defense. they swarmed
in a sea of snaps and flutters and buzz,
teeth aflare and eyes staring down the sin—
conspiring to oust me from my conquered seat.
i was no match for them, the aborigines of prayer.
and sure as my pride, i careened down through
the arms of the tree, uncaught, landing in a
crumpled catastrophe of jeans and hair and blood.
and though they mocked me once for my ambition,
my friends hoisted me to my feet and dusted me
off; they cleaned my scrapes and tended to
my bruises. they said that all would be right in the end.
the truth is that i fell out of prayer—it wasn’t
taken from me. but i have always known such things
to be achieved, gathered, grabbed—a reach into the atmosphere
of sweat, and labor, and want; a matter of sure-footed climbing.
if not, how do i do this thing called prayer?