Barry Napier

How Prayers are Built

The lady standing haggard on the corner
where the avenue meets the night
leans against a lamppost, wishing it had legs
to dance with her, to twirl her in those beautiful circles
best orchestrated in black and white—
to dip and pivot her away from the fact that the only items she owns
are in the soiled canvas bag at her feet:
expired coupons to grocery stores that loom large like nebulae in her mind,
a water-damaged copy of Watership Down that still smells like her father,
and a bookmark with scripture printed on it.

The man that lies bleeding in the ditch
soaking in currents of his own urine
looks into the sky and imagines he sees a tablecloth
that is tattered and bare yet
the stubbornly twinkling stars look like stray bits of salt or bread
that will remind him what taste is like,
waking his tongue to something other than the brown bottle
that cost him $1.69,
an amount he pilfered divinely from the offering plate
with skilled chapped hands
at Wayward Baptist last Tuesday night
as a balding preacher in a black suit spoke in code
of a light offered to everyone that asked for it.

There are spaces between them
that keeps expanding forever—
growing until one end meets the other
and when they touch it is like meeting a stranger
and quickly, dangerously,
falling in love and daring to believe that
every book ever printed has absorbed the scent of someone’s father
and that there is indeed a light for us all, waiting to be claimed
like the pedestrian picked up by the gaunt southern gentleman;
and when he shifts the truck into Drive,
the gears sound like a throat, a ragged voice
and it is saying “Hallelujah.”

Barry has had more than 30 poems and short stories published in print and online. Recent publications include The Pedestal Magazine, The Red Penny Papers, Kaleidotrope, and The Norton Hint Fiction Anthology. He is the author of The Masks of Our Fathers and 13 Broken Nightlights. His first book of poetry, A Mouth for Picket Fences was released by Needfire Poetry in 2010. He is also the author of a new graphic novel, Birdwatching from Mars. He has recently finished up a stint as the guest poetry editor at Inkspill Magazine. You can learn more about him at his blog,

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