Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Prayer for Despair

by Ellen LaFleche

Because the full moon is trembling inside its executioner’s hood, because
a human foot can be molded into a putrefying lotus, because
the tantric beauty of a dragonfly pleasuring the river’s skin.

Because autumn pine sap is the smell of coffin planks being sawed, because
a pit viper exchanges venomous spit with its lover, because
the sacred beauty of corn plants rattling their cobs like Zuni rain dancers.

Because the sun is slicing the horizon’s spine like a circular saw, because
double-headed trout are swimming through irradiated water, because
the unkissable beauty of fire.

Because a loaded gun feels warm as flesh in its holster, because 
the amaryllis flower sits on its stalk like a peeled-back brain, because
the aromatic beauty of lilacs drooping like milk-filled breasts. 

Because a house is groaning under fire’s cunnilingual fury, because
a blindfolded man is begging his captor for a kiss of water, because
the oaken beauty of leaves lurching through autumn like sun-stunned bats.

Because soon you will hold a bouquet of flames to your chest.


SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Ellen LaFleche

is the author of three chapbooks: Beatrice (Tiger’s Eye Press), Ovarian (Dallas Poets Community Press), and Workers’ Rites (Providence Athenaeum). She is finishing a manuscript tentatively entitled Walking into Lightning with a Metal Urn in My Hands, a collection of poems following the death of her husband to ALS. She won the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, the Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Prize, the Tor House Poetry Prize, the Philbrick Poetry Award, and the New Millennium Prize (shared with Jim Glenn Thatcher).

LaFleche is also an assistant judge for the North Street Book Prize ( and a freelance editor.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury