It was easy to worship obedient things.The water that fell offtheir heads made pools
on the floor. The shape it leftchanged depending on the headimmersed. In the shower
I let water run down my arma small river convincedI felt the first realized ache.
When the river knew the shape of my armbetter than the arm I knewby sight, I knew water poured over
a face would reveal its shape likewise.When I coaxed my enemyto speak with water,
when I showed how the un-coaxed thingbehaves, it was always languageI was after. Names. [End Page 107]
What other prayer butshut the lion’s mouth?When those who crawlin caves too tortuousto hold them,
who push until their limbsunfold, can’t crawl back,what is left to pray for?The mouth is closedaround them. When a man
stopped breathing in the “Birth Canal,”when the rescuers left himwhere it closed, rolled stonesover the cave’s mouth,no other prayer but one:
In the morning,as the scripture goes, the kingcalled for Daniel; Daniel,from the closed mouth, spoke:O king, live for ever. [End Page 108]
If the rib cage is a labyrinthfor the heart,
if the sawsthat split cadavers hangfrom cords,retractable string,
then the heart,like the cursed half-beast waitingat the heart,is not the first thing
feared.Even the saws pulled back in dusta rib cage makes.
When I reached the chapelin a house of Godempty of its smoke,
when I had passed the roomsaround it, the doorsthat opened into
the rooms,the dark, the hallways straight,I still recoiled. [End Page 109]
I thought the heartwas safe;
that the cages meant to keep it safecould still amaze. [End Page 110]
Mario Chard is a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University and winner of the 2012 "Discovery"/Boston Review Poetry Prize. He is the former poetry editor of Sycamore Review and a graduate of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Purdue University. He lives in San Jose with his wife and two sons.