Finalist, 2017 Laux/Millar Poetry Prize

The Speaker's Prayer
  
by Jenna Bazzell


If I speak for my mother, I must leave
my own body. I must not expect to wander
home, to see robins darting in low shrubs, leaves
of a birch tree folded like fins, my body not able
to respond, but bent in praise like a sheaf of wheat.
If I speak for this woman, I must no longer believe
this world is for me, but for the red oak leaf
that papers and curls waiting for autumn’s singe.
But if my belief is murmuring water in a creek
nearly dry, is this wrong? If I speak for her,
I know her figure, but cannot yet tell whether
she is a twist of smoke unfurling beyond a range
of pines, a bunch of big bluestem, or the flute-clear
song of the wood thrush. Let her hear me
in the sway of the switchgrass, let her hear me
in the wisteria’s drooping clusters of flowers. Let
her hear me in the stream water pleating over
and over smooth stones. Let her listen.