It Doesn’t Hear Black Prayers


There exists a god

–Any god–

It doesn’t hear Black prayers.

It locks heaven when darkness draws near

And misses the wails

–hundreds of years worth–

For something different.


“If you cannot make this better

Make me different,”

Or so goes one prayer.



It does not respond.

Instead It turns away

And does not see the shape

A bloated broken black body makes

Rotting in the sun.

It misses the scent of hopelessness

And despair turned in upon itself.

It cannot feel the fingers pulling

Sunday after Sunday

–Dressed in what could be afforded–

Plucking pieces of It from dirt

Holding the remnants to the light.

Like the parents–absent and present–

Who stand as equals accused

It is gone from us.

It denies us and has learned not to flinch

When we cry for It

Babes who have only ever known the


Who will only ever feel The Void

As reality.



There existed

A God

I would tell Him

I hate him

For making me this way

For the skin that had to grow


The back that replaced bone

With steel

The face that had to find beauty

In itself

And for never once

Opening the windows

To let a prayer in.


Waiting rooms.

Dusted with the echoes of those gone before

The lagging whisper of time.

Carpets printed with faded patterns of nothing,

Footprints flecking the floor like blood.

Emergency rooms.

Shrills shrieks of silence, assessing

The common brokenness.

Crisp bedclothes betraying nothing,

Every sound a death knell.


Sticky hot with the exhaustive efforts to

Think/do/be nothing.

Chalk dust and pressed granite replaced by the tapping of keys

Jingling their way to a muffled end.

Family rooms.

They are not for sitting: do not go in there.


Laced with the strain of too little space

Arguments misremembered.

Walls of want crumble and rebuild themselves,

Ghosts of fingers reach through, but clasp nothing.

Motel rooms.

Scented with loneliness and the musk of

Desperation and dying.

Beds hard and stiff and not for sleeping, but for

The nothing that follows the too-brief ecstasy.

Hotel rooms.

Clouded with pretending and breaking smiles

Candle wicks burned down to nothing.

Salted tears arrive with room service,

Charges for the stains that will not out.

Crowded rooms.

Suffocating loneliness, the terror of being seen

And unseen.

Throats parched and closed, voice useless, legs tired

Mouth open—then nothing.

Light at the Intersection of Bitter and Sweet

The morning distorts and fragments

The light

It appears, for a moment, to change

Brief, anointed, unified, delight

So we walk, without looking

Trusting as we were told

Blindly seeing tasting feeling

The sight we were to behold

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

You failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it–and then

Stretched out vast and endless


Darkness, but we dare not look behind

They promised, we would find ourselves in this

Before we could think, they broke promises in our minds

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

You failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it–and then

Graying in our brittle bones, the marrow in us


We lay our friends to rest, the stones

Where young hearts once beat

Thumping bitter in our chests

And the time

The time comes faster than we can know

And we are whisked away before our hour

Nothing to show for us when we go,

Empty words without their power

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

We failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it-

We will make it



Incomplete List Things I’ll Leave in 2016

Twice daily cupcakes (especially the ones with the cream filling in the center)

Every-other-day water (apparently every day—multiple times per day—is all the rage)

Reese’s cookies (alright, I’ll sneak these in occasionally)


Getting the last word (I’ll still have it in my mind, so battle won)

Sockless shoes (some people consider wearing all manner of shoes with no socks gross)

Those pants with the hole in the crotch (j/k I’ll see you next week, pants)

Twice yearly flossing (I’m flexible here, as teeth should have evolved to be self-flossing by now)


Anxiety (just kidding, you know you’re coming with me wherever I go)

High blood pressure (that’s how this works? I just say it and it leaves? Right?)

Sugar with coffee (some people say you can drink it the other way around. We’ll see)




(Of course I won’t leave you behind.

You’ll come with us, but you’ll have to be content—we all want to take a piece of you.

Even now. We can’t help it.

We can see you in photographs

And on film

And you’re what we had to give up.

The year has gotten away from us

And it is the last year we will ever have been “us.”

And the last year you were in present tense.

This is the last year we will ever live with you in it).

Lorna Doones (they were alright, at first. Now they–as everything–taste of ash).


You didn’t want to go to the party.

You weren’t just saying that, either.

You wanted to wrap your hair and

Take a bubble bath.

Maybe light some candles.

Put on your music.

Close your eyes

And just “be.”



But you didn’t have a choice. If you stayed

In your small bathroom, the space

That was yours, there would still

Be no room for you.

The party would (as it was prone to do)

Encroach on your space.

In your space you would be hyper visible

And invisible.

Questions would be tossed your way

But they wouldn’t be for you—

And besides, who asks a question

Without already having the answer anymore?



The party, you reason, could have been in

The Other Space. The Other Space isn’t called that, of course.

The Other Space simply is. It is the space that you occupy that is Other.

Still. It could have been there, in that space.

The one reserved for such

Events and such people—they who are

Not You.

Now that they decided parts of you are welcome

(But only if you are silent)

You have to come.

If you don’t you’re deplorable and you’re causing tension.

You are the reason the tension exists, if you don’t come.

You are making them uncomfortable, they can’t even

Align with you you make them so angry,

And how dare you not smile wider and thank them for inviting you?

It doesn’t matter that last week you weren’t welcome

And next week you’ll be called on to prove

Your humanity. They want you now, so you’ll come now.



So the party is at your place. It doesn’t look like

Your place. There’s furniture that you don’t recognize

And though you work hard you can’t afford what they’ve replaced your things with.

There’s food that you do recognize,

But when the party is here the food gets a different name

And a higher price.

You want your space.

They suggest that it’s wrong to call any place yours,

That you are creating tension.

They say this through the glass; you were invited, but you are

In another room. The room you are in is cold

And damp

And stuffed with a thousand other people who are

Nothing like you

And yet, you are all alike.



You are called upon en masse.

There is only room for one, the hosts say apologetically,

Except they aren’t sorry.

In fact, they wonder why there must be more than one of you there.

Why can’t you just enjoy watching the party?

They wonder.

Why don’t you have your own party?

They ask.

You point out that you did have your own party.

And you stocked your house with your own things.

And you made your own beauty.

And they came, uninvited.

They moved you from your place and blamed you.

They took your things—those they thought they could use—

And because they no longer belonged to you, they had value.

They renamed what made you beautiful

And they flaunted their new pieces for the world to see

And they made certain that you knew

What is ugly on you is made beautiful by them.



You aren’t allowed to want. You cannot feel.

You have to be in this space. Your shoulders are necessary

For them to climb on, you are useful

For when a soul needs trodding.

You are the bar below which

They cannot fall.

You move from their space—the space that used to belong to you—

And you breathe, but only for a little while.

They argue amongst themselves right now, but you understand

Their favorite argument is you.

Speaking for you and over you, but never to you.

Never with you, or after you, never silent enough

For you to speak for yourself.

The conditions of their hatred of each other always seem to be met

On the battlefield of you.

You wonder idly if there is a place or time that you might go

To find peace.

They are angry with you for suggesting this.

They reminisce about better times.

They would like for you to know that your place is nowhere

With nothing

And that you are no one.

And that this party that they keep throwing around you

Is meant to bind you

And eventually destroy you.

You lower your eyes and speak softly

And they cover your mouth

And muffle your words

And they smother you

And watch the life flee from you

And they never consider your life at all

For they are human

And you are other

And there is no place for you

Save for the grave that they have built.

Infinite: A Letter for William, Beyond the Veil

I suppose I am accustomed to a finite never. That hangover was so spectacular that I will never drink again.

She actually turned out to be quite the bitch, I will never speak to her again.

Now that we make more money we will never make beans and cornbread again.

Never is tenuous and comes with limitations. Maybe I’ll drink if the setting is appropriate. If she apologizes I will consider deigning to grace her with my presence. Perhaps beans aren’t really that bad.

I don’t attend funerals. They are for the living. There seems to be no way to erase the image of an empty vessel from the mind. I went to yours for your mother. Somehow I imagined, naively, that if we were all there we could buffer her from the absence of her own heart. I wasn’t yet thirty and therefore wisdom had not yet settled.

But I went to your viewing. I was late and everyone else had gone. I had to view you alone.

George was with me. He allowed me to clutch his arm. The girls were in the parlor. I didn’t want them to see. Even then I believed–I could hide them from death.

The breath was pulled from my body without warning, but I stayed in my feet. I wanted to touch you but I didn’t. You were darker than you were in life and this bothered me. I wanted you to look exactly the same. I wanted to feel you could have been sleeping.

The music was horrendous. Were I not crying for you I would have been crying for that. It was truly awful. Exactly what you’d expect from a funeral home.

You were surrounded by photographs. You were unmoving. Your chest did not rise and fall with breath.

You were not in there.

I cried aching tears, the kind that seem to bleed when they out. I contemplated my own mortality.

I didn’t eat at your repast. Some years ago Grammy called that sin eating and it has stayed with me. I couldn’t let a single morsel pass my lips.

So here I am months later. In the Catholic Church (yes I am agnostic and yes I do attend church…it’s a long story) the period following Halloween is reserved for contemplation of those we have lost. I wrote your name as one to be remembered on the cloth this morning, and I felt the aching pain again. I was surprised.

You will not come this way again. This surprises me. The fact that this surprises me surprises me also.

It is the infinite never that I do not comprehend. This state without you is not temporary. You will never greet us with your mischievous smile again. We will never hear the tinkling innocence that your laughter never seemed to shed again.

I keep asking George if he remembered standing beside me looking down at you. He does, so it was not a dream. You have crossed the veil, and you do not come back this way in our lives a way that is familiar. We must do life, always, without you.

I placed these words here carelessly. I understand them in theory.

I am snagged by the “never.” Never. I turn again to my phone, waiting for the message that you have been found. Even now I wait for it.

I do not comprehend an infinite never.


It would be chocolate, velvety and smooth. The ice cream would be chocolate and ice cold but would go down soft and comfortable. Though not my favorite, it would be mine, and it would do. After I had my fill I would take it to Brooke–there, I would taunt. He does exist.

Her father lived with her and loved her plainly, but I didn’t know that then.

You. Promised.

When you made the statement the first time I could hear the truth in your words–I mailed you a cake. There was no humor in your voice, no indication of the bodies surrounding you, laughing at your mischief and my naïveté. They, those that surrounded you and knew about the little speck of dirt that you could not out, must have laughed heartily. You must have turned to them with your cheshire cat grin and reveled in their laughter. You must have heard my voice made small by immaturity and youth and you must have held your own laughter back for so long it hurt.

I did not hear the laughter then. I only heard your promise.

With the innocence of a child I took your words and tucked them near. They were, after all, a promise and promises were kept.

On the first day I tumbled from the bus barely aware of a scraped knee. The mailbox gleamed like an oasis in the heat of a desert. There was nothing there, and my mother confirmed that no gift had arrived. She did not tell me that it would never come. She has never said that.

She has never called you what you are.

I wondered after the third day of nothing whether or not the box was too small. The house was tiny, little more than a box itself. I imagined your house would be grandiose and I would have a room of my own there, should I ever be invited to visit. I hoped that the decadence of a cake from you would be placed in a box that may not have been worthy to receive it.

I waited by that insufficient box for weeks. At one point, briefly, I blamed the box.

The loss of my innocence was private and wrought with despair. At an indeterminate point after my birthday hope left like a vapor. The cake that you promised would not come.

Your words ate at me as an acid until all that was left was the rawness and the realization that not all promises are kept.

I took your name from you then. You were daddy before. Unearned merit and unquestioned love. You lost both.

An eye for an eye.

I spit out your name—Jonathan—like poison on my tongue. I do not hold it too closely and for too long.

Jonathan—when I was ten you picked me up for Christmas. I was homesick and wanted to speak with my mother. I begged to call. You dragged me across the line into Florida and I asked if we could see my dad’s family—he earned what you lost, you see—because they had his blood and in that way I could be close to someone who loved me.

You said I could call soon. You did not promise, then.

You gave me $50. More money than I had ever seen. Because it was Christmas I wanted to buy you a gift. It did not occur to me that you would not wish to receive it.

In the way of macaroni necklaces and trees made of sloppy handprints I assumed that you would love anything I chose.

I did not know then that love was a promise that you would not keep.

From the bins of TJMaxx I chose cheap cologne. It smelled of pine straw and slow death, but I selected it for you.

Your face froze when you unwrapped it. You met your wife’s eyes and you said, “thanks” through gritted teeth. My heart sank and my cheeks burned.

Later, as we prepared to leave, I saw the cologne left on a dresser, already forgotten. Cast aside and awkward.

Something else you did not want.

I did not cry for you when you lost your mother. I considered it. I remembered her as a one-dimensional figure. One who refused to properly name me. In her nasally voice she called me “Reenie” and her voice did not harbor love for me.

She, like you, could not pretend. In this way I suppose we are kindred.

In the recesses of my brain I wondered if I hated you. I wished I could. Every good story needs a villain. But you are not my villain. You do not belong to me.

Still, I could not cry. I did not know her.

I do not know you.

I shed you like an ill fitting skin when I was one and twenty. The words tangle now in my mind, but you did not question them then or now. I wonder what you must have said. I wonder what words you twisted to form me. I wonder how I appear in your recollection.

I wonder if they still find you laughing. Do you remember that cake?

You carry me as your albatross. When we pass invisibly through each other’s lives we react differently. I recoil. I know your sting and I do not wish to relive you.

You bend under the weight of your burden. Your mouth forms stories and you create an “us.” Promises not meant to be kept creep from your tongue because you have not yet learned to keep them at bay.

My mother has hope when she rings. “Nicole,” she calls me, and I hear her words dripping with honeyed love. “He wants to reach out. Let him.”

“Jherine,” my dad says, his words a smooth salve to the pierce of another lie from you that only I can see, “you owe it to him to hear him out.” I am angry with you for lying to them. I can bear the weight of your lies—my shoulders were made strong by them. They should not have to, and I want to protect them from you, as I protected my daughters. To them you do not exist.

Shhh. I would not wish for you to make a liar of me.

You reach across the years and these are your words:

The Saine family reunion

is being held in Dayton

on the weekend of July 21

please put it on your calendar.

Nine years of nothing. You reach out and you cast across a mass message. It reads as a curse, your mass message. I chuckle humorlessly and I type, “I will respond to this soon.”

I want to create words for you, to construct you. I want you to see yourself in whole and in truth. I am no longer seven or ten or any other age that found me cowering under the weight of being unloved by you. I am who I grew into naturally, but not in spite of you. Because of you.

And you. Unnamed to my children, sad stooped figure of my recollection, caught interminably in his own web of broken promises. Can you remember them all?

You are as you always were. A man as good as his word.