Prayer for the Man Who Assaulted Me by Kate Arden

Prayer for the Man Who Assaulted Me, and Later Asked, “How Many Times Do I Have to Apologize for That?”


after Charles Harper Webb


May there come a day, decades from now,

that you start to feel that something’s off; that you

start to smell traces of my perfume just when

you are drifting off to sleep; that you find a hair a

different color than your wife’s curled delicately

on your pillow. May you wake up from the

deepest part of your sleep trembling because you swear you heard my voice carried in on

the breeze. May you feel someone humming

in the upstairs of your quaint suburban home

only to find the faintest warmth from my soles

left in the floorboards. May you be terrified.

May you taste adrenaline every time your

phone rings. May the street be filled with cars that do not look like my old car but that

make the street quake like something I

might drive. May you hear my laughter, the sweet kind from before, emanating

from behind your TV set. May you pull out all the books on the shelves, picture

books and old textbooks and airport novels,

because you swear you saw between them

the flash of an eye, the one you once saw

huge in terror, now narrowed, cold and

determined. May you have to sing to yourself always

so you do not hear me waiting. May

your wife not understand. May you overhear her on the phone to her mother, when she thinks

you are asleep, wondering if it will be tomorrow

or next week that you finally snap. May your children aim weary looks at you, a stranger,

unkempt, wild eyed and sweating in what was

once their living room. May she send them to live

with her mother. May she start packing a suitcase.

May you be forced to move states by the memory

of me. May you be unable to eat because your

stomach is always full of me. May you sleep in fits. May you hear my name in the mouths of

passing strangers. May the new city reek of me.

May you long to see me, finally, at last,

if only so that it will all be over. May your wife call and you hear my soft chatter

in the background. May your kids’ new sitter have the same name as me. May you find skin under your nails though you have not touched

anyone in months. May you find yourself

crumbling to the ground begging on your worn

knees for forgiveness. May you repent so

forcefully and for so long, asking the benevolent

sky to crack open and drown your undeserving

lungs; asking the ground to boil and melt the body

you once allowed free reign of this earth and all its bodies. May your pleas be so earnest and distracting to passersby that it gathers media attention. May I see your gaunt figure on the news and it take me awhile to recognize

you because I have not thought of you in so long.


It is possible, just slightly possible, that then I will forgive you, and it is only because I

remember feeling once how you feel there

on your knees. My god, how I pity you. Your god,

how I pity you. May you die of relief with my name

on your lips, praising me as a merciful lord, one who is kind to animals.

Kate Arden is junior from Fuquay-Varina studying Political Science and English.

© 2023 by Cellar Door. 

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