Christine Swint


Learning to Pray in Spanish      
                                                 
Secrets cling to her like a damp sheet.
      It’s summer on the Chattahoochee,
and July currents wrap silver arms
      around the rocks. Clay-stained
eddies tempt her to the riverbanks,
      to slip beneath the surface.
Is anyone looking down on her
      as she swims with Jesús in the sun?
He says, Two hawks in the sky mean love,
      three hawks will bring bad luck.
Padre, Hijo, Espíritu Santo.
      Hot stone dries their backs
as they lie face up, fingers laced,
      counting hawks above the pines.

Pot smoke drapes them like a gauzy sheet
      where they hide by the Chattahoochee.
Jesús wraps her in his arms
      in the back seat of his clay-stained
Impala, in the woods near the banks.
      He presses words against her ear and she traces
his back with her fingertips–
      Princesa, bella, preciosa.
His mouth tastes like fast-moving currents.
      Padre, Hijo, Nuestra Señora.
They’re behind a curtain of sumac, watching light
      swirl through the haze, gossamer shafts
cutting crisscross through the trees.
      Smoke-high kisses, the clear shimmer of water.

Her long hair drapes them like a silk sheet
      under the trees by the Chattahoochee.
Men fish in silence, not lifting their arms
      or turning to see who’s there. Her clay-stained
sneakers mark the path near the banks.
      She lifts her face to the breeze.
What’s the word for most high?
      Dios, Señor, Padre, Hijo.
Something about the spindly pines,
      the clouds, the burnt-sienna needles
and bark chips littering the path,
      the rocks, the blood-red ravines, are charms
against dim kitchens waiting for them
      at sunset, when they each leave for home.

Kudzu covers power lines in sheets
      on the roads near the Chattahoochee.
She slides close to Jesús, their arms
      touching as he drives down oil-stained
streets, away from the root-tangled riverbanks,
      to somebody his mother knows.
What about Jesus, Mary and Joseph?
      Jesucito, la Virgencita y todos los santitos.
A gray-haired doctor presses the pear
      inside her, helps her up from the table,
his hand still warm from her innards–
      You’re just six weeks along –it’s not too late.
Clutching the paper gown closed,
      she covers her face with one hand.

A storm tears through leaves in sheets
      and pockmarks the Chattahoochee.
Behind the wheel, Jesús crosses his arms,
      almond eyes brackish. Grief stains
her cheeks with mascara, and the banks
      overflow above the tree roots.
Angel de la guarda–pray for me–
      The mud-brown river covers the shoals
where they sunbathed in July. Hail
      pings the roof, and “Stairway to Heaven”
whines on the radio. When the rain slows,
      she swings the door shut, waits. His car rolls up the hill.
And she imagines–right where she wants it to be–
      a hawk above the river, lifting a snake past the trees.








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