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John Himmelheber

A Prayer Circle

is a democracy stained with fascism. That one, over at the circle’s bulge
(where vectored tangents escape), shies away. She plays the unworthy
publican, her tiny feet clutching each other and scared of the spike. Her
head, which otherwise in offices or, say, kitchen is directive to children or
points like a puppy dog to latest political opinions, now hangs down and
studies: blue collar stiff with stays, breast, belt, slacks. Her right hand
drifts, grasps

the old man’s. Wrinkled, too warm but dry, dry. No moisture, not in eyes,
throat, groin. It is practiced: the murmuring. Is it Latin (when he was
twelve kneeling in white) or cursing (at sixty to a wheelchaired wife)?
Echos of Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, Glory Be’s and a ghostly long black
chain hanging down to the floor. The noose ends in a crucifix—two ways,
no use waiting. He slightly crouches to reach for a pink soft hand
the young girl raises. Blankly, waiting for the promised god, studying
faces to mimic, proud of the white dress, crinoline, her bleached-out
venialness and faint perfumes. Stillness has no pain but impossible when
through the window the flowers and berms so close, the smell of sweet
afternoon summer mold. Concentrate on prayer, think of suffering, of
glory, sacrifice, triumph, clothed in desert robes, heavy Hollywood
dialogue. Twiching reflex from

Momma’s hand, gripping too long for arthritis, her knees also. Why,
limbs, have you forsaken me? The dinner alarm rings, house/homework
awaits. God, just let me stand forever in Your Light! Dark familial
shadows lurk, drag me down a bunny hole, laughing; now I laugh. The
warm sweet kiss of devil-husband, apostle-children asleep on the gardengreen
sofa. Who will protect me from the centurions? I see my scream
and claw some skin off

the young minister’s palm. She would raise her arms but they are fixed by
others. Only practiced voice, Aphrodite eyes, alabaster cheekbones, tiny
creases from jaw line to collar, bones white and lying in the sun, sacred
words spread around, propping up phantoms who craw like spiders to
Gethsemane. How to inspire! Too many pages, too many philosophies,
too devout for barely thirty. A doubt leaks to Gawd and her hand

in a vise that stands beside. He is silver and aloof. Fifty dollar bills pad his
crotch. Bells that ring on Sunday ring for him. Women he eschews wait
on him like virgins. Power he believes in feeds on him. His tanned nose,
prominant, drips mucus he doesn’t feel. Armor shines like aluminum foil.
He folds his godly thoughts, the creases sharp to cut through hymns.
His grip not one of death but already dead

to the unbeliever. No electricity passes. The ground is dirt, no more; the
air full of carbon, he accepts his cough. Blind rhapsodies play, but he
whistles dead march. The thorns that rip him know his naked truth,
alone. Stand upright! The head too heavy for the shoulders otherwise,
the spine too weak to straighten, the pelvus too inflamed. Ah, the fire he
used to feel! He would pass it on, through a holy-watered hand, but

there are no more. Circle to spiral. Plunge.
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