blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Prayer For Mrs. Snead

Out of thorn-apple, out of love-apple,
out of bramble-fruit like green ice
comes the heaven I wish for Mrs. Snead
who held me in the hard-work breath
of Greensboro mills till I’d sleep, who brought
the washcloth to my feet the way cats rake tongues
across their young. The stunted apple out back
was her first gift, yearning and torn.
Days I was sick but Grandmother was sicker
and my mother was in Orangeburg to tend her,
Mrs. Snead’s parlor spun me in its holy apple-glass,
its stained-lamp finches in gold ice.
Her rough breath rubbed me
with the alien dust of girlhood in the mills—
she’d left these same bricks, cold mornings, sixty
years back, as the train churned by outside.
Back home each night I missed her tired Jesus
and the apple tree refused to answer light
with the snowflowers my mother said would come.
Christmas brought the music box that gave
me Mary holding him. Angels turned
around them bearing harps. On Mrs. Snead’s last day
that is almost what I saw: heaven, her body at its center
holding me, holding any of us close, and
all around, her Ashley, James and Fitz, reaching in
under drifts of blooms, playing not harps or flutes
but scratched windows of fruit, God as green
delicious as her hands had always been.  

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