Pray for Us Sinners

tia cowger


I’m still spitting up blood from the last

time—my throat swells, and it’s hard for

prayers to slip through my teeth. Clasp

hands together, kneel, but can’t

stop my head from rolling

under the church pew.

The priest is standing beside white

fire, preaching about salvation.

I can only see shoes from here,

but they’re worn through the soul.


He is a good man, reaching

under the pew and picking up my

head. He cradles it between his

Holy hands. I am not absolved,

not yet. Maybe someday I

can forgive myself. He takes out

the silver needle, thin red

thread, and stitches my head

back on my sobbing shoulders.

Pray for us Sinners, Father,

my mouth moves on its own. He

smiles and pressed his thumbs

to my eyes, a coal to my lips.

I pray for us all, he whispers,

walking back towards the fire.

His arms are wide and burning

when I swallow the coal.





Tia Cowger is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University. A poet at heart, her work has been published in Eastern’s literary journal The Vehicle, Toe Good, Gone Lawn and others.