An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Prayer of the Backhanded

    Not the palm, not the pear tree
    Switch, not the broomstick,
    Nor the closest extension
    Cord, not his braided belt, but God,
    Bless the back of my daddy's hand
    Which, holding nothing tightly
    Against me and not wrapped
    In leather, eliminated the air
    Between itself and my cheek.
    Make full this dimpled cheek
    Unworthy of its unfisted print
    And forgive my forgetting
    The love of a hand
    Hungry for reflex, a hand that took
    No thought of its target
    Like hail from a blind sky,
    Involuntary, fast, but brutal
    In its bruising. Father, I bear the bridge
    Of what might have been
    A broken nose. I lift to you
    What was a busted lip. Bless
    The boy who believes
    His best beatings lack
    Intention, the mark of the beast.
    Bring back to life the son
    Who glories in the sin
    Of immediacy, calling it love.
    God, save the man whose arm
    Like an angel's invisible wing
    May fly backward in fury
    Whether or not his son stands near.
    Help me hold in place my blazing jaw
    As I think to say, excuse me.

    Published in Please (Kalamazoo, Michigan: New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University, 2009).

    Published: 4 March 2010
    © 2010 Jericho Brown and Southern Spaces