Teach Us to Pray

The word “father” has many and various forms
As many as the tongues that have uttered it by name
Through beams stretched out from a shining face
Or groans searching for home in a formless void
“O father, my father…”

Contained in this word are all history’s begots
(and misbegots)
Spilling forth from Adam to Omega
Like a big bag of acorns
(and arachnids)
Splitting long ways at the seams
Or a small basket of crimson petals
Collected from a long center isle
Only a lucky few are lifted from the top of the heap
And carried away with the wind
Between the back door of the church
And the dumpster by the road

It’s the biggest word there is
The fullness of the godhead in its bosom
The daughters of the earth in its loins
The sons of god and their loins

The father of lights casts a world of shadows
Through tears in the curtain drawn over ancient windows
The son of light, said the children of Rome
Tried to climb the steps of the dawn palace
To find his reflection in the face of the sun
But that day the boy died in his father’s chariot
And the desert nymphs choked on his ashes
As flames spread spangled across the globe
Beneath the great eclipse of a single word


When the son of Mary taught us to pray
We, like Phaethon, “hid our eyes with our arms”
Expecting to receive stones instead of bread
An audit on our debts instead of forgiveness
A world of wilted lilies and sun-dried sparrows
Like the day Athos burned and Atlas quaked
We feared for the earth as it was in heaven


But the other day my only daughter
Climbed up on my lap with unflinching eyes
She opened her mouth and uttered a word
That eclipsed the rest of history in a moment
Around a small single petal wafting down a thread of light
Unbroken by shifting shadows and sinking sand:

“Daddy, you’re my only daddy.”

And I saw my reflection in my daughter’s face
And, there, I remembered how to pray
“O Father, our Father…”

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