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Owens, Elisabeth, R. (ed.) / Encore: more of parallel press poets

Sornberger, Judith
Prayer flags,   pp. 55-56

Page 55

Prayer Flags 
I see now why each line of wash 
in a backyard makes me want to drop 
down on my knees, that I am witnessing 
the prayer of t-shirts, blue jeans, sheets 
and underwear-the prayer flapping 
below the terra cotta rooftops in Siena 
repeated in the same tongue right here 
in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. 
Don't tell me those women don't know 
they are praying. Have you ever 
watched even a busy woman hanging 
out the holy ghosts of her family? 
Seen her stand there afterwards, 
her empty basket resting like a child 
on her cocked hip, as she adored 
the spirit of the wind tossing them 
into the deep blue mind of heaven? 
Even a grieving woman feels her feet 
lift from the earth when the breeze 
kicks up the ankles of her drying khakis, 
feels her shoulders sprouting wings 
as her blouses take flight. I don't know 
if she is grateful as she clips each 
garment to her line, or if each one 
bodies forth a precious worry. 
Maybe her clothesline is one long wail. 
But watch her hours later 
when she goes to bring her wash in, 
leaning into the warm scent of sun 
woven with birdsong, closing her eyes 
for just a second as she guesses 
this must be how God smells, 
pulling each piece into an embrace 
of folding, settling it in her basket, 
and giving the whole stack a final pat. 
Judith Sornberger 

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