Tongues, speaking in

In our house, I wake to the random rolling of R’s
in a sing-song voice, mom’s voice, a terse
and rapid repetition of th-th-th-th.

In our house, for her, this is prayer
and if I go to see about breakfast
and her eyes are closed and she’s wailing
the answer is cereal. Do not worry.
I can tell which box says Cheerios
though I can’t yet read. Holy O’s
from mom and the brief chorus of dry
cereal in a ceramic bowl. She’s asking for surreal.

In our house, dad is gone for weeks practicing war
and when he comes home, he lets me unlace
his heavy black army boots, lines the living room
rug with empty brown beer bottles by morning.

In our house, dad stays in bed on Sundays,
is angry with me for letting Jesus save me.
Mom will want me to pray soon with tongues
nonsensical to all but God, syllables that make

noise like words. But I know for what she is praying.
It’s something like the small life preserver
floating in the milk of my spoon.

Holm_photoMelissa Holm holds an MFA in poetry from The University of Mississippi. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia where she works as the Research Project Coordinator for The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett Project at Emory University. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. II: Mississippi and she read her poetic tweet on NPR’s Tell Me More. Melissa is also an avid runner and enjoys racing in several road races a year with her husband, Matt.