They took you to Lourdes where the water
was freely given. You refused and then
assented. You prayed but not for your bones
and entered the grotto carried by two,
one able body on your left and one
on your right their hands holding you steady
in the piscines, and dipped you naked
into the water. The waters were cool,
your body held still for sixty seconds.
All around you the sick, or the most sick,
a brew of the sick and the ambitious
and you thought of contagions, your humor
never lacking—you knew you were something
separate from your bones, a pilgrim, but more,
your petition a kind of offering—
the only prayer that escaped: for your book,
you prayed for the words and to be given
only that which should be freely given.
Isn’t this how we all should come, naked,
attended by one at each side, carried,
borne, lifted into the water, infirm,
surrounded by the unwell, asking God
only to be given the right language?
Put it in the water. See if it walks.
Chris Haven’s poetry appears or is forthcoming in Louisville Review, Redactions, Thin Air, Poet’s Market 2014, and Seneca Review, where his prose poetry won the 2012 Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Prize. His MFA is from Texas State, and he teaches writing in the undergraduate program at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Currently he is at work on a novel set in Oklahoma in 1955.