A Close Reading of Prayer

Nakachi Clark-Kasimu

To N.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of god, the holy place where the most high dwells.” — Psalm 46:4

If it is a river

then it has cut and healed

following the same law of gravity

has swallowed babies' whole time

kissing the eyelids

of every innocent beginning

has not slept for days on days on days

lost weight then lost some more

flooded the flat lands

and killed every seed

every single one

If it is a river


If it is gladness

then it is a joy

the strength of our divinity

carried on the wet feet of tears

drug through the jagged streets of guilt

yes, child

the light comes from all you lost in the fire

capillaries carrying what we should not have done

had to do

flush our skin with luminescence

glow us with heartache

so someone can see

to let somebody know

If it is gladness


If it is the holy place

where the most high dwells

it is the birds-eye view

of a world gone mad

it is a sinless sky

making wet love

to a filthy earth

for one more run

through the branches

of her willow tree

the top of a mountain of questions

unanswerable and full of glory

If it is the holy place


If we will

bless the shotgun

bless the head

hope like matter

continue and not end

the children will block the streets

set fear on fire

before they will see us dammed

will know that all lives must honor

the river

If we will


* Nakachi Clark-Kasimu is a poet, singer, and a spiraling wind living in Oakland, California.