Prayer for the Man Who Mugged My Father, 72

May there be an afterlife.

May you meet him there, the same age as you.
May the meeting take place in a small, locked room.

May the bushes where you hid be there again, leaves tipped with razor-
      blades and acid.
May the rifle butt you bashed him with be in his hands.
May the glass in his car window, which you smashed as he sat stopped 
      at a red light, spike the rifle butt, and the concrete on which you’ll 

May the needles the doctors used to close his eye, stab your pupils 
      every time you hit the wall and then the floor, which will be often.
May my father let you cower for a while, whimpering, "Please don't
           shoot me. Please."
May he laugh, unload your gun, toss it away; 
Then may he take you with bare hands.

May those hands, which taught his son to throw a curve and drive a nail 
      and hold a frog, feel like cannonballs against your jaw.
May his arms, which powered handstands and made their muscles jump 
      to please me, wrap your head and grind your face like stone.
May his chest, thick and hairy as a bear's, feel like a bear's snapping 
      your bones.
May his feet, which showed me the flutter kick and carried me miles 
      through the woods, feel like axes crushing your one claim to man-
      hood as he chops you down.

And when you are down, and he's done with you, which will be soon,
      since, even one-eyed, with brain damage, he's a merciful man, 
May the door to the room open and let him stride away to the Valhalla 
      he deserves. 
May you—bleeding, broken—drag yourself upright.

May you think the worst is over; 
You've survived, and may still win.

Then may the door open once more, and let me in.

Loving a House

Sandi doesn't like Dan much, but loves his house. She comes over before
he's home from work, to gaze into its window-eyes. 
     She wheedles her own key. ("That's good," Dan thinks. "We're getting
close.") Now she can visit when he isn't there to interrupt as her bare feet
caress the hardwood floors, as her hands linger on gleaming knobs and
faucets, as she strokes the long, smooth balustrade, and explores every
chamber of this heart she adores. 
     Though Dan's frog-belly makes her wince, his slobbery kiss makes
her shudder, the feel of him inside her can only be endured if she is
drunk or stoned, she marries him, pretending it's the house on top of
her, the house into whose ear she cries, to whom she whispers, "I love
you. Good night." 
     How awful when, after a year of bliss, Dan wins promotion to a better
     The "For Sale" sign in the yard pierces her heart. 
     She makes phone calls. She hires workmen and machines. Dan
comes home with two First Class tickets, to find wife and house gone. 
     "We'll move from state to state," she mouths through the rear window
of the truck that tows her love. "We'll paint, remodel, whatever it takes."  
     When rain begins to fall, she climbs from the truck to the house, and
as asphalt hisses by, kisses the wet windows one by one. "It’s hard for
me, too, Sweetheart," she whispers. "Please don’t cry." 

Related Poems

Prayer To Escape The East

Ash ascending the altitudes of dawn—
and all along these tarnished clouds 
have refused to accept our suffering. 
Down a side street, the wind goes on 
tuning its violin, a pizzicato off
the thin strings of hope, a melody 
of dust.
       If you knew anything 
as true as a bird's magnetic heart, 
where wouldn't you be instead of here, 
looking out on the blank grey measure 
of another year, a street lamp 
at the outpost of dusk?
                     All the old failings
circling in the moth-spattered light, 
ones you've held on to so long now 
they just about shine, like the sparrows 
in evening's rusted trees—
                        almost the same
birds above Rincon or Malibu, the trees 
still simmering in that '60s, slow, 
Pacific sun, the glassy waves repeating 
their incomplete sentences about the present, 
and the past—surfboards spiked upright 
in the sand like totems for the last city 
of gold.
       And looking off
in that lost direction, back that far west, 
the string section in the palms picks up, 
and who's that on Coast Highway One, 
blond as Tab Hunter or Sandra Dee 
pulling up to Trancas in a convertible 
          If there were angels, 
why would they come forward now 
to acknowledge another complaint? 
And what small comfort could there be 
in their terribly bright memories 
of everything?
              It's the same future
waiting there regardless, unthreading 
through the blue eucalyptus—your guess 
as good as the birds', singing their hearts out 
for nothing but the last crumbs
of daylight pinpointing the small space 
of their lives?
               What use asking what more 
you could ask for. You might as well 
look out there to where they said 
the big picture was and watch the credits roll 
before the bandages and plastic bottles arrive 
on the tide
           with the grainy underbelly 
of industrial light. What's left to contribute 
to the dark? The echo and chum of the waves? 
Only that to confirm the eternal at your back. 
So why not
          pick up this dust-colored feather, 
carry it to your rented room and open the glass 
doors above the river, unclench your fist and let it 
float out in the and direction, as unlikely as luck.