St. Francis’s Prayer and the Serenity Prayer

Word that is forever Change,
make me into a bone button 
on satin:
Where there is a buckled over 
agoraphobe, lost 
on the wild-orange street,
let me say to her, 
“Welcome home, friend,” 
and make it so.
Where there is a scorched 
stretch of Martian valley floor, 
ash tree stumps 
sticking up like 
so many comb’s teeth, 
let me water the ground
with tears of sweet sorghum syrup.
Where there is a schizophrenic 
veteran hollering 
about Beelzebub 
living in his spleen, 
let me dab his forehead
with damp coffee grounds.
Where there is a corpse 
of an orphan mutt 
on the shoulder of I-65,
let me carry it 
like a talisman
and bury it in the 
pasture of an industrial 
farm, and fashion 
for it a headstone 
out of bald cyprus. 
Word that is forever Change,
Grant that I may not so much 
seek to have my avocados and 
ramen noodles draped
in an imperishable plastic shroud,
as to drape someone’s  
avocados and ramen noodles 
in an imperishable plastic shroud. 
To have my neck rubbed 
with beeswax salve 
boiled over a gas stovetop,
as to rub someone’s neck 
with beeswax salve 
boiled over a gas stovetop.
To have a pack 
of Turkish Royals and 
a sack of boiled peanuts and 
a white-cherry Icee
brought to me from
the twilit five and dime,
as to bring someone a pack 
of Turkish Royals and 
a sack of boiled peanuts and 
a white-cherry Icee 
from the twilit five and dime.
“For it is giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is dying that we are 
born to eternal life.”
God, grant me the serenity
to accept, with upraised  
palms, smooth like two nickels, 
the word 
that sometimes, 
like a loosed neuron, 
frenetically flits
across a yellow field, 
whipping the wheat berries 
and their slender necks
this way and that. 
The word 
that sometimes endures 
as obstinate matter, like 
the small outline of a nautilus 
that ties a hundred million years 
into a logarithmic knot
between two igneous strata.
The immutable word 
that, whether flitting or enduring,
does so according to 
the irresistible whims of 
some genderfluid schoolteacher 
who is made to scrawl 
its preordained arithmetic 
on a blackboard behind
a vermillion curtain. 
But, God, on that 
green June noon 
when the sun is 
a dried lemon wedge 
and the word (and its 
machete-shorn pathways), 
for a moment, only one,
is pliable, 
its swirly lines 
and little hollow dots 
all malleable and soft 
on wet red stoneware, 
grant me the courage
to be the potter’s
birchwood rib for 
the word’s reworking.
And, God, 
grant me the wisdom
to know the difference 
preordained arithmetic and 
wet red stoneware.

Photography Credit: Jason Rice

Will McCollum is from Birmingham, Alabama, and is a doctoral student in anthropological archaeology at the University of Chicago. He received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Islamic studies from Vanderbilt University in 2015. William’s poetry has been featured in The Gravity of the Thing and Sobotka Literary Magazine.