Sarah Pape teaches English and works as the Managing Editor of Watershed Review at Chico State. Her poetry and prose has recently been published or is forthcoming in: New England Review, Passages North, Ecotone, Crab Orchard Review, Bluestem, The Pinch, Smartish Pace, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and others. Her chapbook, Ruination Atlas, was published this year (dancing girl press). She curates community literary programming and is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.
Prayer for Thirteen
Never find yourself on your back,
wool blanket scouring bare ass
as you try to see the meteor shower
over his rocking shoulders.
And don't believe the first or next boy
that drives you up to the dam,
when they say they've never done
this before and can't help themselves.
Don't look at your bedroom window
as a portal into the world, or
a Camel straight as breathing apparatus.
The moment you let your dress drop
that skin becomes something else
to maintain, your body an instrument
you'll tune and twist until the strings
break. Don't torture your body as if it
is the prisoner with a confession.
Oh daughter, you have already lived
longer than I without the sheer
hatred of each lonely cell; you were
born, a prayer on my lips:
“Let the world be different for
this one; right her steps as the earth
collapses under its darkness.
Your Camero was up to the wheel wells in drenched orchard
we held hands, the funk of early love in all of our creases, diesel
fumes and blush at the tow truck's approach—thick beams of
light cut through the swarms of mosquito. I think of this night
when we are apart for many days, missing the insistent song our
largest hen makes, following you through the overgrown garden.
We say that we reconciled because we could survive the apocalypse
together. You are learning how to make eyeglasses for me and
I will find the water, knit clothing from fibrous bark. Can you
see us—stunned in the quiet of dead machines. That night we were
pulled from the black mud; before the humorless driver carried us
away from our adolescent shame, I divided myself over your lap,
pressing hard as the mosquitoes covered the skin's blank spaces.
Even then it seemed too soon to know that we would pledge our
end with all of mankind. There is the orchard and then the memory
of the orchard, where we held hands, whirring in the oncoming lights.