Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

"Paternoster"

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.

Paternoster

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—

our father—

Put this begging in your mouth, a decade of loaded beads.

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