How It Spreads by Tiffany Lee Brown

A prayer now
for the baby
fucked to death
near Coos Bay.

A prayer for the guy who did it.
Three for the cops who 
accidentally beat him 
on his way to the 
car.

Three more, now, one for the
girlfriend, two for the wives,
who held the big men in their
arms when they 
cried.

Four prayers for the EMTs who
lifted the small body with
shaking hands. One each for
their two hearts, two to slide 
in their pockets, like
stones.

A prayer for the coroner, the
mortician, the gal from Forensics.
Seventeen for the other tweakers
who know the guy, who might’ve
used the word 
“friend.”

A prayer so wide and radiant
it refracts sunlight, casting
miniature rainbows against walls
and sidewalks. Children run through
it with their arms outstretched. Streets
and valleys, woods and trailer parks, 
trill to it with hymns and birdsong
as it stretches over the bay to the ocean. 
A prayer that drenches the dammed, slow 
river and orangeish millponds, slaking 
the moist thirst of tiny tributaries 
clogged with 
mud. 

A wave of prayers from a 
massive clan of hands, a wave so big
the salmon ride it upstream—
over the bridge, past the dams,
beyond the quarry, all the way 
to the old redd where their
great-great-grandmothers
lay.

A prayer for every hand, however
frail, that opens a newspaper or
clicks a link. A prayer for each eye
that takes it all in, and one for each
sorry ear. He who has an ear, let him
hear.

Let us pray for the friend of the wife
of the cop. Let us pray for her lips as they
form the story’s shape, over wine in a cabin 
on Soapstone Creek. Now let us pray for the 
poet who listens, who tucks the white marble
between cheek and gum, rolls it against old 
canker sores, worries it with her 
tongue.

Every listener and reader, too:
a prayer for every one of you.
You will need it to 
bless the mother, the one
who left her baby there.

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