The fourteenth Moon Prize* goes to Lisa Marguerite Mora's poem "Learning How to Pray" —backdating to the full moon of October 5, 2017. This poem evokes such tenderness.
Learning How to Pray
by Lisa Marguerite Mora
She hands me a china cup, steaming with black tea, sweetened
with condensed milk. At age four, it’s the best thing I have ever tasted.
She is my mother and we have been apart a long time. Outside the rain,
tiny horse hooves move across a gray sky. The world is good and clean.
Wet pavement, salt air breath of the ocean close by.
Its giant sigh does not disturb me.
Living here with my mother brings everything to life.
She places a round stone into an earthen pot, soon a yellow star flower
lives there, open mouthed as I am at my mother’s abilities.
I will learn more of how the world gives such gifts.
If I wait and watch, soon I will know a lot.
I should have been more specific with God. But no one taught me how to pray properly,
to give thanks for what I had. The earth and God will take their due.
I can’t remember if I prayed for her the day she died. I can’t remember
if I prayed for myself. The rain clattered outside like horse hooves.
There wasn’t much else between me and the life pressing upon me.
But still, I can’t tell you what I’ve learned.
Listen, I will tell you what I do know.
There is a trap door leading to the worn floors of heaven. Once in awhile I catch
an angel there and its wings brush against the throb of my temple.
It folds its wings and arms and waits for me to either recognize it
or let it go.
So patient. So unrelenting.
So willing to forgive.
* * * * *
"Learning How to Pray" was published previously in a different form by ONTHEBUS Literary Journal.
Lisa Marguerite Mora has had work published in Rattle, ONTHEBUS, Rebelle Society, The Urban Howl, Cultural Weekly, Public Poetry Series, Literary Mama, and California Quarterly, among many others including a Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Prize. Recently she has finished a first novel and is at work on second. Lisa studied with author Carolyn See at UCLA where she received a Bachelors in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis. A story editor and consultant, she also conducts creative writing workshops in the Los Angeles area.
* The Moon Prize ($91) is awarded once a month on the full moon for a story or poem posted in Writing In A Woman's Voice during the moon cycle period preceding that full moon. I don't want this to be competition. I simply want to share your voices. And then I want to pick one voice during a moon cycle for the prize. I fund this with 10% of my personal modest income. I wish I could pay for each and every poem or story, but I am not that rich. (Yet.) For the time being I still run a month behind with this prize—I expect to catch up to the current month soon.
Why 91? 91 is a mystical number for me. It is 7 times 13. 13 is my favorite number. (7 isn't half bad either.) There are 13 moons in a year. I call 13 my feminist number, reasoning that anything that was declared unlucky in a patriarchal world has to be mystically excellent. Then there are 4 times 91 days in a year (plus one day, or two days in leap years), so approximately 91 days each season. In some Mayan temples there are or were 91 steps on each of four sides. Anyway, that's where the number 91 comes from, not to mention that it's in the approximate neighborhood of 100.