Ellis Purdie

< Back to Issue Eight


Kneeling Bedside

In the noise of my blood, I grow weary
of home and look for somewhere to pray.
But in winter, finding things in the woods
is harder, and I am less grateful, always asking
for what takes months to return, learning
again I cannot just sleep until spring.

I drive to Marion County, though spring
is months away as is the worst weariness.
I search under logs for salamanders and learn
the lay of this land that helps me pray,
to think of a friend with cancer and ask
God for light to finally break in their woods.

Memory sustains: a drive through dark woods,
an owl in the road and a snake its mainspring.
Eyes gone gilt in headlights, a gift not asked
for, waking me from a long day’s weariness.
I wonder now why a bird’s catching prey
is what I needed to once again learn

those same things that as a child I learned
in the Presbyterian day school and would
say I believe if someone asked for prayer.
I believe it best in April, the beginning of spring,
when all shakes off the weariness
of winter, and the chokecherry asks

to be breathed. By the creek, snakes bask
in the sun, and in tall grass my son studies
the wildflowers and does not grow weary.
We talk of rattlesnakes, in particular timbers,
and I promise we’ll hear their buttons some spring.
On such days, it is so much easier to pray.

In Grenada County, my grandmother prayed
in a house now dead, its contents a casket
of a hard living from summer to spring.
At seventeen, she ended her learning
at the public school and promised she would
love a cotton farmer, most prayerful when weary.

Spring should not be the only time I can pray.
Others are more weary but have less asks.
God, I’ll learn You beside beds as I do in the woods.

“Kneeling Bedside,” read by Ellis Purdie.

Abandoned Church in Harrison County

Hymn song ended beneath a steeple
now yeared with rot. Then joists
collapsed, bared rooms of praise,
the kitchen on the second story
where cabinets and stove lean
crashed ajar. I step with caution
off boards and tin knotted towards
the ground. Weeds, risen through
piled shingles, rasp my ribs as I drag
lengths of rain gutter to woods’ edge.
Just across the road, a man washes
his truck, glancing at me in ask,
What are you doing? and I rehearse,
You really want to know? He nods,
and I tell him, Looking for snakes.
He may start, certain I am a fool,
and question why I would want
that which we heeded into Fall,
or share his sighting the very kind
I search for: a racer in grave-moss
teal, shaped with the same speed
of water etching stone. Offering
his hand, he may give his name
and want mine, a church ritual
dormant here I cannot know how
long. Finished, I wave and step
into my driver’s side. He signals
back. I turn the engine and watch
him move out of the rearview’s
sight, dodging friendship for this
day. But perhaps later, on this plot
meant for sanctuary, adoration will
yield brotherhood once more
in a place both broken and God’s.

Ellis Purdie is a graduate of The Center for Writers at The University of Southern Mississippi. Previous work has appeared in Vita Poetica, Riveted, Quarter After Eight, New World Writing, and Red Rock Review. He lives with his wife, son, and daughter in Marshall, Texas.

Next (Don Reese) >
< Previous (Tommy Welty)

Photo Credit: “Winter Through the Trees” by Samuel S, via Flickr.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.