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Portrait in Sugar and Simple Prayer

The language of sugar isn’t difficult

to master. One learns it as easily as

any other tongue. You may not believe me,

but it is true. As a boy, lost in the cane fields,

I made a mistake (Who doesn’t make mistakes?)

and, for this small error, I was punished, the sweet

sugarcane becoming weapon, becoming punisher.

Each time the man brought the body

of the cane stalk down across my back,

I cried out. Would you believe me if I told you

that today I wouldn’t even whimper at such a thing?

Because now I know how to brandish a stalk,

how to bring it down as testament, how to make

the nothing of air sing before the strike. And because,

well, now I know how to accept punishment as well.

You punish or are punished. It really is that simple.

Dominus, Holy Father, I have hidden myself

in the cane field. I may have sinned. My back is bare

and in need of your administrations. Not salt

in the wound, Lord, but sugar. Sugar as sharp

as the metallic taste of blood in the mouth.

Make me regret this, Lord. Make me…

Strike me, Lord, strike me harder than any man.

Make of me something sweeter than sugar.

from PrometeoFind more by C. Dale Young at the library

Copyright © 2021 C. Dale Young
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in C. Dale Young Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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