Aris Kian – In Texas We Pop Prayers like Pills
“... we know the rhythm of decorum, Abbott licking the blood from his palms before the press calls.”
Hide them beneath our tongues and swear like Hell we’ll swallow. God sends flood waters to wash the backlog still lodged in our throats; when did you last choke on a new name? A new face? A tsunami of apologies and talk show chatter – the matter of each life weighed in scales, bottom dollar hanging in the balance. I’ve learned to master my own unpersoning, that leadened tethering, to get from one edge of the day to the next. A child is laid to rest and the barrel of the gun is given an hour-long segment. I know the syntax mishap, that bumbling blame, the grammar gamble of headline games. We toss the fault like a life raft, counting the points at the polls in the morning. More kids die, and we bury the all lives rhetoric with them. We’re sedated with distance; our sobs fading behind the clamor of interstate traffic. We don’t ask for tragedy, but we trust it to be punctual, pressed-collar and tucked at the hem; we know the rhythm of decorum, Abbott licking the blood from his palms before the press calls. He hands out prayers in a plastic cup, and the police get a billion for the performance of public safety. Gutted spectacle, cursed praise dance, every prayer still stuck to the pink of his tongue, we can spell Amen in the cracks of his hands.
Notes from the author:
This poem is in response to the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The poem interrogates our ability to do nothing but offer condolences — the instinct for Texas leaders to skirt accountability. There’s an absurdity to the piece, an uncanny familiarity with discomfort, which is how it feels to live in Texas and to come across new headlines, how it seems like this state is a hub for every violence. I’m interested in how we navigate conversations around murder, gun use and media coverage interwoven in our day-to-day, how we’ve grown to drown out these conversations, how humdrum it becomes, like a daily commute. This poem begins with the idea of prayer, but ultimately focuses on the blood of children and loved ones on our leaders’ hands.
Aris Kian is a Houston enthusiast and a student of abolition. Her poems are published with The West Review, Obsidian Lit, Write About Now and elsewhere. She engages with the socio-emotional landscape of the metropolitan city in her poems and hates taking the 610 West Loop. She ranks #10 in the 2020 Women of the World Poetry Slam and is the 2022 recipient of the Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize in Creative Writing.