How many of my friends from back then— pink faced
in beige Buicks, busted trucks or bugs, who charged
over New England’s back roads, chanting in Sanskrit,
wearing Mohawks, scars, some piercings that I opted
not to see—who among us stays up late and smokes still
while this thin blue thread of menthol disappears
like Laura and I did one night in Hartford, praying
to a drawn, blue god for something, everything,
‘til we headed back to our hick home town where we found
somewhere safe to sleep? It burns and disappears, this smoke,
the way my boyfriend did back then, all filmy in his desert
and my memory, or like our friend Chad did last week,
in his old bedroom, smooth and dead, seamless as a lightbulb
when the gardener found him. Let’s praise, for now,
what disappears. The girl whose parents fed me casserole and beer
and put me up; praise all of them. And those years,
fantastic deities, country songs and afro-pop, praise them, and stolen
booze and bras, gasoline we’d siphon at the truck stop,
heavy, worthless books we’d quote and tote around. Praise Chad,
who scowled on my couch, ate torn hunks of sourdough, finished
his novel and sat there all summer, silent in the wake of his own mind.
Praise our stories, bread, our hands, our brains, our crazed
and flimsy hearts, praise all that ever lead us reeling towards this world
we couldn’t, haven’t, but we still might, someday, understand.

 


Bob Hass says all poems are either elegies or praise poems. “Prayer for What Disappears” is beautifully and quietly both.
–Dorianne Laux, 2012 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize Judge