Home > Worship > A Morning of Orange Hands

A Morning of Orange Hands

October 6, 2011

by Lawrence Wray

Only the shag of birds in the dark
green corn or his own footfalls
on the dirt berm of the road, edging
his way close to cover. On the far
side he could imagine a car
rattling by on Pottershop Road,
but the dust it raised might have set
the distance he needed,
a separate life. Beyond there,
there is an opaque but lived nothing,
a blankness he cannot fill out,
not even luminous when his sister,
much later, tells him what happened.

Just to get away for a few hours,
then on, the boy my father was
went out walking on Sundays—
Baptist singing, Methodist, Deutsch
hymns in United Brethren houses.
Nazarenes left their seats, clapped
and sang exuberant prayers.
He’d hang about in the steeple yard
or when no one seemed to care
slip in to the back pews near the door
as adults lost their minds—
a solace in their reenactment,
practiced scenes of being taken,

familiar strickening, not overcome
though he was nor withheld,
but unbelonging. Men the size of his
father crumpled in sobs,
but were helped to their feet
by older quieter men who led them
to the altar to be saved, hands

on shoulders. He lingered in that
exhausted hush, aroused by—
a second sense in dropped voices,
the flutter across women’s shoulders,
sweaty dark hair curled by an ear,
in the instant men’s hands got restless.
And behind him, or he was ahead
always, was his father:
He beat the boy for being gone
whole afternoons or for saying
other people’s prayers,
if he thought of it, against him,
first in one place, then another,
that howling and the savaged,

savaging god. In their speechless
waiting, the Quakers felt caught,
or was it paused, culled, contained
when he wanted to be loose?
The plainness of that regard
from which no one ran
but was stripped—hands flushed
orange in the streaming light,
the vacant center circle lit up,
a gulf of tall windows,
and not raised but in their laps,
at rest—and from which no one hid

but was sheltered: in their sight
the heart he wanted was the one
whose absence made his father
fly into a rage. And while there
was no explanation for this—
no one stood to say it—
he would have to grieve for both
one day—his father’s wreck
of a heart and his own—before
he’d find the fields he skirted
were mere fields that quavered
with bird, the heart scarcely more
in the murky August air.

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Lawrence Wray’s poems have appeared in Cider Press Review, Dark Horse Review, and Sentence 7. Online, they are available at Prime Number Magazine, Frostwriting, Blood Lotus, and Emprise Review. He is involved in homeschooling two young daughters, and has begun a collaborative memoir project with and about the child-prodigy pianist Dr. Charles Brindis.

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  1. Andrea
    October 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Your poems always create vivid images in my mind. Dad’s haunting childhood memories linger into our own lives spanning now 4 generations from his father. It reminds me of the Apache woman who I helped one day. She said she never takes her shoes off because her grandmother taught her to leave them on just in case they have to run from the Calvary.

    Love you, brother

    little sis

  2. Barbara Montgomery
    October 9, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    How can a mother express the pride and joy experienced listening to her son read his poetry? You have continued to grow and create wonderful pieces that touch us. I “feel” your poetry more when I hear your voice reading it as you want it expressed. Keep allowing space in your life to write and create and know that you are loved.

  3. Duane Wray
    October 9, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Lawrence – It seems impossible to me to express the feelings your poem has rekindled – perhaps because I am still hanging about. During those few hours on Sunday I found excitement, and a sense of wonderment. Most of all I was without fear. Love you, Dad

  4. Dianne Martin
    October 14, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Big Brother, As I listen to you read your poem, I can picture dad sitting in that church as a young child. As you read, I felt as if I was there, seeing this play out in my mind. Andrea is right, the generations continue but the feelings still remain. Dad is a hero to me. He went through so much as a child, but did not let that break him. He is an amazing man, with incredible strength and so much itegrity. I am so proud of you Big Brother. Your talents are endless. You inspire me so much. I love you!

  5. October 17, 2011 at 5:05 am

    Oh, reading these comments brought tears to my eyes. So happy to have hosted this wonderful poem. Deep bow to you all from me & Kaspa.

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