The Robert Watson Literary Prize Poem ALMA REDEMPTORIS MATER

Spring 2017 / Issue 101

Kelly Michels

Marketed by Purdue Pharma as a strong, but non-addictive relief for chronic pain, OxyContin was received as a miracle drug and widely prescribed throughout the Appalachian region.
                                                                                                    —Communities Digital News, March 11, 2014


Pray for this heavy, lightning-scraped body.
Pray for the halved mountains and sludge fills,

the ridges of fingernails, the ache of the knees.
Pray for the whites of the wrist, the salt-spilled

milk of the breasts, for our swollen hazel eyes
and each of their stolen colors. Pray for the muddled mines

and jagged gas lines, the sky’s hyperventilating blue,
the white-knuckled river waiting for a sign. Pray to

the flicked cigarette, the heap of pine needles, that there
will be no flared uprising in the night, that our blackened

lungs will burn out, vanish like monarch wings midair,
leave us as if we had never been here, cleaved, pinned

against the light. Let us raise our drought-choked throats.
Let us step to the edge and hope the sky can hold us.