prayer from a new jersey jail cell


what is left of me but the upside down
reflection in the spoon? i know of hazy-eyed hunger
for smoke. thirst for space. i beg the flames
to coat everything in ash. i am capable of great
disaster. as a son introduced to sin, i poison
that which bears fruit, sweet
and bruised. dad used to take a hatchet to the snakes
in the garden where i played. what is left
of me but teardrops in a jailhouse?
know that i am confident
i cannot acquire the word “father.”
family an afterimage
inverted. these mantras he wrote to me
recur. coal glowing in the fire.
what is left of me
but the faint smell of sulfur? i choose
to reach for a better feeling or anything
because reaching is all i know.
shaky hands mistook for fear. what is a god
without blood and light?
the coldest
beer will do. because what is left of me
but the carcass i tried to be? a slurred “father.”
keeping sober is most important.

Paxton Grey