Beth Bachmann’s first book, Temper, won the AWP Award Series 2008 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, and Tin House, among other journals. She teaches creative writing at Vanderbilt University.
The word for a line with a series of hooks also means the recitation of a prayer,
but in our case, a paternoster is shaped by the weight it holds at its end.
The leader and the link are determined by the shyness of the bite.
Reeling it toward you piques the bait.
Move closer. I want to tell you a story. It has its blood knots, its changing water,
the usual lures: family, violence, a margin left bare for interpretive remark.
It’s not easy, even with this sinker, to go below the surface.
To ask you to offer me your open throat.
I’ll start with the thing dragged up: the body of my sister.
I’ll give you the location: the tracks.
The red treble designed to mock blood, to stick into the skin: one suspect—
Put this begging in your mouth, a decade of loaded beads.
“Paternoster” originally appeared in American Poetry Review and is excerpted here from Temper by Beth Bachmann, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Beth Bachmann. All rights reserved.