Today’s poem comes to us from Justin Bigos, whom I met after posting my review of Textu by Fady Joudah. I love when circles intersect like that. His poem “Prayer After Refusing to Pray,” featured below, originally appeared in New England Review and may also be found in his chapbook Twenty Thousand Pigeons. It is also a poem I loved from the first time I read it.
Here’s his official bio:
Justin Bigos is the author of the poetry chapbook Twenty Thousand Pigeons (iO Books, 2014). His poems have appeared in magazines such as New England Review, Ploughshares, The Collagist, The Gettysburg Review, and Indiana Review. His fiction is forthcoming in McSweeney’s 47. He co-founded and co-edits the literary journal Waxwing, and teaches creative writing at Northern Arizona University.
Prayer After Refusing to Pray
after Patrick Donnelly
Now, in the summer heat of Texas
in February, to the sound of grackles
in trees stretching for rain, I pray
for a man over a thousand miles
away. But You — if You are
what he says You are — have
sent boys to burn the car
that was his home, boys
to crack his skull with stones,
and now You send a boy to drag him
down to a river dark with snow
and push him in. Water
in his mouth, his eyes, did he
think of me? But it was
the ocean I’d found myself
inside. I had refused to pray
all summer, and when I emerged
from the salty sting of blindness,
my body dripping with the Atlantic,
I refused again, and my father wept.
And You — or so a boy thinks —
did not lift a finger.
Come, You in Your silver suit
of water, spread Your
length across these rocky plains.
Turn those eyes large as whales
to what my only father,
barely breathing on his back,
calls the heavens — tell me
what it is You see.