They hang dead the moment a body
tacks one up; as if a salvific being
needs a gently used or broken
record of a desire crossing
itself off for the pinprick.


Like a sung song, or a lost girl imagining how easy
it would be to bake her body into a big mud pie
at the river bottom if she knifed her rowboat,
the prayers offer novel methods of turning
bluer in the face before a small audience.


They're not as pale as they were in their younger days.
What remains are the words of Midnight the family dog
dying of bone cancer, of the boy hoping someone who loves
him will find a job that pays money, of the Chinchilla stricken
with lupus, of the cat older than the sofa, of the lonesome lady
who parents six children not yet mature enough to hold a thought,
of the emptiness in hollowing one's mouth to say please repeatingly.


Here, upon this old, prayer request bulletin board, sway
the napkins bearing the headstones of the infrequent
patrons of the volunteer run, rescue mission thrift.


The door breeze softly swishes the facial wipes pinned
up for all to soberly indulge in a few seconds of comparing
their headstones to the chicken scratch dreams divorced from
the perhaps adorable Christian names that brought them to life.


I take one napkin,
so shitty with sad anecdote(s),
and further dry the tares in my eyes.


A little girl smiles politely, asks the clerk
if the lunchbox she grips is free, but the clerk's
enthused reply that the Bible is the only thing
that's free does not prolong the conversation.


Before I can fully compose myself, a man with a security officer
patch on the right shoulder of his jacket interrupts my weeding,
and says I may use another prayer to wipe my mouth so life
is not as labor intensive for the Lord, or the Devil, or not.

An anonymous prayer request board in a rescue mission thrift shop in the Inland Empire.


Does not everyone want his or her desires met or heard? Why not wipe one's desires and wishes on a napkin? They seem to have been there for so long, much like the executed in Villon's "Ballad of the Hanged Men". Are words, written on a napkin that just sways against a cork board, too lifelike and heavy with meaning? Or, do these napkins trivialize an individual’s most dire wants?


                                                                                                        ~NW Hall