Praying with Mark Twain – by Maria Masington

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company. —Mark Twain

If we could have met in the last fiery years,
after Tom and Huck, later when
you lost your wife of decades,
buried children stolen by
meningitis, diphtheria, mental illness,
as miscarriage and divorce jaded me.

Self-destructing in young womanhood,
having burned every bridge I crossed.
Alone. You, no grandkids to tell your tales.
I’d have listened, near the end of your life,
when they say you had volcanic rages and
fought depression with cigars and books.

Not to rehash the Mississippi Queen, Yale, or
Halley’s Comet. No, we’d compare war
stories, connect over anger, injustice, neither
needing to apologize or make excuses,
a communion of regret and shame.

And then, after talking late into the scorching night,
I’d light two cigarettes in my mouth, pass one to you,
and in holy, smoky covenant, with tobacco hearts,
you’d assuage my resentment and say,

“Settle down, girl, remember:
Forgiveness is the fragrance
that the violet sheds
on the heel that has crushed it.”
And I would respond, “Amen.”


Maria Masington is a poet, author, and spoken word artist from Wilmington, Delaware. Her poetry has appeared in over two dozen publications including Gargoyle, The Broadkill Review, Adanna, Earth’s Daughters, Never Forgotten: 100 Poets Remember 9/11, and by the University of Colorado. She has seven short stories published in both local and international presses. Parnilis Media released Masington’s first chapbook, Mouth Like a Sailor, in 2021. It was awarded first place by both the Delaware Press Association and National Federation of Press Women. She been acknowledged as a three-time Delaware Division of the Arts Fellow in both poetry and prose.