Out of exceeding gloom and out of God,
I break a prayer from a growl and sing
a hymn more ordinary than tap water.
I pray that I might be more than my skin,
this dance of atoms, this ritual of ash,
this tribe of twilight and rattled angels,
this pattern of epiphanies rejected.
I know all prayer is merely the patter
of little feet coming down the stairwell
in a daydream of a future household.
Paradise I make a book of laughter
and forgetting; in the threnody* spun
from streetlight cascading through sheets of rain
in the parking lot after a movie,
I make a gospel called marriage. Coast there
with me, wife. I pray for the only grace
every soul is blessed with: stupidity.
Let me be stupid enough to love more,
to want less, to desire only what moths
insane for light desire in their beating
against the screen door on August midnights.
I make a ceremony of small hopes
and venerate them like scratch-off tickets.
I confess I carved a psalm into
the stump of an oak tree. Sometimes, I drink
milk straight from the carton and I seldom
thank you for doing the laundry. My choir
is the sigh of the shovel into dirt
I once heard in my grandfather’s garden,
his blood of Christ a can of Ballantine’s beer.
Holiness turns a curse to canticle
and returns the bleat to the slaughtered lamb.
Without you, my wife, without God, sweet Jesus,
I’d be tracing my muscles in the dark,
spinning on a treadmill in the basement,
instead of letting the lark in my gut
warble a nest of cracked hallelujahs.
I’m a host of bright wings and brokenness,
praising the body that betrays me now
and at the hour of forever I do.
*threnady: lament, dirge.
Dante Di Stefano received a PhD in English from Binghamton University. He is the author of Ill Angels (Etruscan Press, 2019) and Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016). Di Stefano’s poem, “Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry),” was selected by Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco for the 2019 On Teaching Poem Prize, which is given to honor the best unpublished poem written about K–12 teaching and/or teachers. A poetry editor for DIALOGIST, Di Stefano lives in Endwell, New York.