Your Daily Poem: Patricia Smith

Ed. note: For National Poetry Month, we’re highlighting one feminist poem each day in April. See the whole series here.

Today’s poem is “What You Pray Toward” by Patricia Smith.

What You Pray Toward

“The orgasm has replaced the cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment.”
—Malcolm Muggeridge, 1966


Hubbie 1 used to get wholly pissed when I made
myself come. I’m right here!, he’d sputter, blood
popping to the surface of his fuzzed cheeks,
goddamn it, I’m right here! By that time, I was
in no mood to discuss the myriad merits of my
pointer, or to jam the brakes on the express train
slicing through my blood, It was easier to suffer
the practiced professorial huff, the hissed invectives
and the cold old shoulder, liver-dotted, quaking
with rage. Shall we pause to bless professors and
codgers and their bellowed, unquestioned ownership
of things? I was sneaking time with my own body.
I know I signed something over, but it wasn’t that.


No matter how I angle this history, it’s weird,
so let’s just say Bringing Up Baby was on the telly
and suddenly my lips pressing against
the couch cushions felt spectacular and I thought
wow this is strange, what the hell, I’m 30 years old,
am I dying down there is this the feel, does the cunt
go to heaven first, ooh, snapped river, ooh shimmy
I had never had it never knew, oh i clamored and
lurched beneath my little succession of boys I cried
writhed hissed, ooh wee, suffered their flat lapping
and machine-gun diddling their insistent c’mon girl
c’mon until I memorized the blueprint for drawing
blood from their shoulders, until there was nothing
left but the self-satisfied liquidy snore of he who has
rocked she, he who has made she weep with script.
But this, oh Cary, gee Katherine, hallelujah Baby,
the fur do fly, all gush and kaboom on the wind.


Don’t hate me because I am multiple, hurtling.
As long as there is still skin on the pad of my finger,
as long as I’m awake, as long as my (new) husband’s
mouth holds out, I am the spinner, the unbridled,
the bellowing freak. When I have emptied him,
he leans back, coos, edges me along, keeps wondering
count. He falls to his knees in front of it, marvels
at my yelps and carousing spine, stares unflinching
as I bleed spittle unto the pillows.
He has married a witness.
My body bucks, slave to its selfish engine,
and love is the dim miracle of these little deaths,
fracturing, speeding for the surface.


We know the record. As it taunts us, we have giggled,
considered stopwatches, little laboratories. Somewhere
beneath the suffering clean, swathed in eyes and silver,
she came 134 times in one hour. I imagine wires holding
her tight, her throat a rattling window. Searching scrubbed
places for her name, I find only reams of numbers. I ask
the quietest of them:


Are we God?

This poem originally appeared in the collection Teahouse of the Almighty by Patricia Smith, published by Coffee House Press, 2006.

sm-bio Syreeta McFadden is a co-curator of Poets In Unexpected Places.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

Syreeta McFadden is a contributing opinion writer for The Guardian US and an editor of Union Station Magazine.

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