A poem for Franklinton by Joy Sullivan

“Even if we are not sure how it is going to end, we still have this obligation to struggle.” Chinua Achebe


When Jacob met the angel,

he embraced divinity with such ferocity, 

the light of heaven broke bone and sunk socket.


Still, Jacob would not relent. He caught the wings

of God and bellowed for blessing.


Here, in the bottoms, we know what it is to bellow,

to grapple with angels. We’ve learned to beg

benedictions, to hurl petitions at the moon.


Prayers come back as crippled echoes,

bruised sonar, splintered

into pavement, abandoned houses,

into altar bread and the freckled faces of children.


Here, we know the best way to pray is to pant

with your whole body. Even the dogs teach us that.


Here, we wrestle God and demons

and leopards and angels and some days

we cannot tell the difference.


Here, we dance because there is quicksand

beneath our feet and because we are not ready to sink.


Here, when I think of loosing my grip on Heaven,  

when my prayers boomerang back

and my hips quake from the shaking,


I imagine Jacob, limping home, his thigh bent and magnificent,

a fit of feathers still clenched in one unflinching fist.

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