Prayer
Elana Bell
When you are crying & I don’t know why
When I cannot soothe or quiet you
When my nipples are sore & cracked from your merciless mouth
Or when you refuse the breast
When I finger the purple stretch marks
across my thighs & belly,
the loose skin
the blood vessels burst around my eyes & cheeks
& asshole
which are because you are
When I stink of puke & milk & shit
When I begin to lose my grown up words
from lack of use
When you push the cup of blended yams
I’ve just prepared
on the floor
for the third time this week
& it isn’t an accident
because you looked right at me
before you sent it over the edge
of your high chair
When I am on my knees
before you
little ruler
begging you
to eat, to sleep, to piss in the bowl
let me remember those many nights
on my knees
praying to another god
begging for you
to come
for life to take hold
inside of me
& bloom
Elana’s debut collection of poetry, Eyes, Stones (LSU Press 2012), was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award by the Academy of American Poets. She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Brooklyn Arts Council. Her writing has appeared in AGNI, Harvard Review, and the Massachusetts Review, among others. Elana teaches internationally with Seeds of Peace, the Tent of Nations and Encounter, offering workshops to educators and community members from regions in conflict. She was a finalist for the inaugural Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism, an award which recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. Elana also teaches poetry to actors at the Juilliard school and curates public art installations with Poets in Unexpected Places. www.elanabell.com