Kimberly Grabowski Strayer

Prayer for JonBenét

            After Diane Seuss and Lightsey Darst

Tonight I searched
how much older I would be
than JonBenét Ramsey,
but instead found her
my exact age.

And how do you decide
who among us should be beautiful,
and do you think it a blessing?

No, this is something
you decide yourselves.

Prayer that goes: begin with the pearl, god,
I think: what is inside, grist for this mill.  

Prayer that goes: dear god,
outlined in baby’s breath. I can’t help
but think this punishment
for softness.

Describe to me the sound of JonBenét’s voice
at sixteen. Her hands clutching
the wheel of a car,
her first. 

Prayer that goes: we are both
six years old, eating pineapple
with spoons in an immense

She promises
she will show me her crowns,
maybe let me wear them.
But you know even then, god,
anything that wears a crown
is marked.

Prayer that goes: JonBenét’s ghost
and I are twenty-five. Wearing
nail polish named quarter of a cent-cherry.  

We are both ravaged
this time. She glides through
with her wrists tied.

When we were six,
she tried to bite mine apart,
set me free.

A cigarette in her left
hand. You’re not even a believer,
she quips, her right hand grazing
choker necklace—
they’re coming back.

Prayer that goes: what are we
supposed to learn from this.

Prayer that goes: there’s not much left
to believe in. JonBenét in silhouette
relief, and always.

And the dead not gone,
the voice not disembodied.

Prayer that goes: never say at least—
this is no reward for being beautiful,
most likely to be treated
as a doll.

The only reward
is that people still want
to find you. Still want to know
what really happened.

We have no choice but to be
grateful for this.

Kimberly Grabowski Strayer holds a BA in English Writing from Kalamazoo College, and an MFA in poetry from The University of Pittsburgh. Her poems have appeared in Superstition Review, Midwestern Gothic, Pretty Owl Poetry45th Parallel, and others. Her chapbook, Afterward, is available from Dancing Girl Press.

JD Thornton