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I Call to You from Time

Prayer Flags

I see now why each line of wash
in a backyard makes me want to drop
down on my knees, that I am witnessing
the prayer of t-shirts, blue jeans, sheets
and underwear—the prayer flapping
below terra cotta rooftops in Siena
repeated in the same tongue right here
in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

Don’t tell me those women don’t know
they are praying. Have you ever
watched even a busy woman hanging
out the holy ghosts of her family?
Seen her stand there afterwards,
her empty basket resting like a child
on her cocked hip, as she adored
the spirit of the wind tossing them
into the deep blue mind of heaven?

Even a grieving woman feels her feet
lift from the earth when the breeze
kicks up the ankles of her drying khakis,
feels her shoulders sprouting wings
as her blouse takes flight. I don’t know
if she is grateful as she clips each
garment to her line, or if each one
bodies forth a precious worry.
Maybe her clothesline is one long wail.

But watch her hours later
when she goes to bring her wash in,
leaning into the warm scent of sun
woven with birdsong, closing her eyes
for just a second as she guesses
this must be how God smells,
pulling each piece into an embrace
of folding, settling it in her basket,
and giving the whole stack a final pat.