I learned to pray with the small of my back
and the backs of my thighs and calves
as I lifted snow or dirt as a child.
And the prayers were as seasonal as God,
who existed as the grubs or worms
hidden in the clay. There is the Christian idea
of suffering, and sometimes the shovel
severed a pink body or the snow in winter formed
such unmerciful mounds of white
that they were holy and woeful and rueful
and singing in the bright glare of day.
I learned to curse by searching for hornworms
in my mother’s tomato plants, and I learned
to love by throwing those worms
into the pond and watching the bass
and the bluegills launch the silver of their bodies
to the surface. And at night the hospice stars
above my father’s house were almost a blessing.