Six Prayers Over Fifteen Years
Doug Ramspeck

Six Prayers Over Fifteen Years

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.

Doug Ramspeck

is the author of six poetry collections and one collection of short stories. His most recent book, Black Flowers, is forthcoming from LSU Press. His poems have appeared in journals that include The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Slate, and The Georgia Review. His short story collection, The Owl That Carries Us Away, is published by BkMk Press (University of Missouri-Kansas City).