David Moolten: “Prayer for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania”




Drugs, they said about the Harley parked in flames
outside a steakhouse. It’s always drugs
and everyone always says it, an excuse still
an axiom, six an hour for a grown man
laid off from the mills to serve bikers fresh out
of school, take their dollar tips as they get on
with roaring around town like they own it.
The way some days the wind swoops down
from the Great Wall of Blue Mountain
cursing everyone under its breath, you pray
it’s true, that there’s still hope for him,
that after one of them loved your niece too hard
it really is the chemicals which made your brother
sob with a lighter in his hand. Then the way
the stacks stopped offering poison
to the air at least a sad clarity might return,
not just as in he’s not crazy after all
this place did to him, but because there’s mercy
for the coke ovens and rolling presses
despite the sheer tremor and dry thunder gone.
The authorities, who must know, claimed
it took half the force to tackle him while strong
and powerless as ever he held on
to a picture of her like an oxeye daisy in a meadow
after a summer storm. Maybe he just needed closure
or maybe closure is all people here have seen,
a god with rain and rust for angels
you worship simply by not leaving.



David Moolten is the author of three books of poetry, Plums & Ashes (Northeastern University, 1994), which won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize, Especially Then (David Robert Books, 2005), and Primitive Mood (Truman State University, 2009) which won the T.S. Eliot Prize. His verse has appeared widely in journals such as Poetry, American Poetry Review, Narrative, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology.

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