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take the stone of my heart
and break it—

When it comes to conversation,
I like the idea
of the wailing wall,

scribbling a petition
on a scrap of paper
and slipping the paper scrap

into a crack
between sun-blistered stones,
knowing our prayers may not be granted,

but trusting the silence that answers.
I’m a long way from Jerusalem
and the temple,

but I believe
the Holy of Holies is
always near,

even in the all-night diner
where people gather in smoky booths
and I, like a lonely supplicant,

write petitions on white napkins
pulled from the shiny dispenser,
little prayers I pen and leave under dirty plates.

I assume my note is removed—
just like the many prayers left in the temple wall
are removed by
devout caretakers
who silently carry the paper scraps into the desert
and bury them by the hundreds in the sand—

and wonder
what the Portuguese dishwasher thinks
when he buses my table

and glances at my prayer
written in a language
he cannot understand

before tossing the napkin in the trash.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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