Prayer

by Nick McRae

Forget the factory town’s sooty snow
on your tongue in an open square
at night, and us in it.
Forget the vagrants with their fake folk ballads
and the coins we threw to them.
Forget the long trains
and the deep red apples you pulled from your bag,
placing them into my cupped hands.
Forget the smell of sour cream and dumpling flour,
of boots and damp grass
in your house behind the station
where you knelt by your bed
scrubbing wine from threadbare carpet.
Forget the cut of my coat.
Forget the books I brought you.
If you have to, please, forget the drizzly night in Prague
we saw a man swing a bottle
like a ballplayer, split it into shards
on another man’s cheekbone,
his body pitching back into the arms of smoking strangers.
Forget that he didn’t yelp, that he didn’t even cry out,
though it’s true the music held us in its pulse
and I couldn’t hear myself hum,
couldn’t hear you speak,
couldn’t have told, no matter how hard I strained,
that the band was playing a sad song,
that the singer wasn’t laughing into the microphone,
wasn’t promising us, as you gripped my arm,
that we would be alright.
Forget my name if you have to.
Forget the spired churches like bus terminals,
and how our bodies pressed against each other,
against those gathered for mass, for vespers.

Nick McRae is the author of Mountain Redemption, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition from Black Lawrence Press (forthcoming 2013). His poems, reviews, and translations have appeared or will soon appear in Hayden’s Ferry ReviewLinebreakPassages NorthThe Southern ReviewThird Coast, and other journals. He is currently compiling and editing Gathered: The Anthology of Contemporary Quaker Poetry. Formerly a Fulbright fellow in the Slovak Republic and a finalist for the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, Nick now studies poetry and teaches creative and analytical writing at The Ohio State University, where he also serves as Poetry Review Editor for The Journal.

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