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.

From the Chrysalis Said the Butterfly

Nakachi Clark-Kasimu

“You are my universe. You are my love.” — James Taylor, "There We Are"

“But no more grey mornings. I think I'd rather die.” — James Taylor, "Another Grey Morning"

you breath

you jasmine

you honeysuckle nap in the afternoon

you possibility unbuckled you point of it all

you sweet dream

you holy tongue you shimmering ankle

you tinkling fingertip along my jaw

you touch you whisper

you song


damn you


did they taste us somewhere on the salted rim of joy

did we embarrass sorrow

did we go too far

did our yes terrify the universe

were we too impossible

that she had to vomit us up to feel better

did we cut the lip of a fear that thought it had us

did we rend the shroud between epochs

were we too ancient too sacred too sound

did we wake the terrified neighbors into hope

did we stir an army of eternal gladness that would not wait

did we take the streets, did we rob the city


don't let them have us

don't let them take us a way that is not our way

don't rip your name from my chest

do not take the sight of your eyes in heat from above me

not sorrow not us not this wait

baby, don't be that way


you scream from the belly of night you

you judgment from a silent god you

you free fall from the precipice you

you crumpled flesh you you shattered bones you

you hated morning you

you endless day you useless flight

you prison of ache

you last chance

you purpose you point of it all

you loss you emptiness you trembling weeping goodbye


did the chrysalis know the butterfly she made would split her open and leave her

that they would marvel at the wings

and never look to the home

torn and hollow on the ground

did she look up before some crow lifted her from the ground

did she pray to be of use again before she got carried away

and when he heard her and laughed his goodbye

before they could get high enough for her to fly

did she say


don't be that way


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