Prayer to the Patron Saint of the Younger Woman

The first time you see her she is the woman
who works at the camera shop, who winks
at the photos of your ex-wife
topless in Monterrey.

The next she's twenty-five,
sitting across from you at a bar.
She makes a mosaic
of fingerprints on her wine glass,
while she tells you this terrible thing
about her life. You are amazed
at how flatly she says it,
how then she waves it all away.

Then she's next to you
in a line for tickets to a Cubs game.
She turns to you
and makes fun of your hat.
You realize you love her then
in that moment, all sno-cone and relish.
You see how she has suffered.
You see the light that touches her
and you want do the same.

Some days it can be so hard
to remember that she's dead.
To remember that it is not you she saved
but rather some king,
some saint in another life.
Other days she comes to you
like a song in a dream.
It's then you realize her relics --
a bony finger, a wilted thatch of hair --
could never do.
You need the whole of her,
need to open the tightness
of her lips to your name.

Some nights, you ask her
how she wants you
to pray. Like this.
Like this,
she answers,
always knowing
where your hands fit best.

  -Erin Elizabeth Smith