A Bit Like Prayer



My father taught me to crab.

Silently, we’d sit on the dock,

the little girl and her father,

our stirrings minimal, our strings

in the brown creek,



He taught me not to squeal when the crab

nibbled the bait and tugged the string.

Then, trained by example, I learned

to go slowly, so slowly,


my string



by inch


so the crab wouldn’t catch us at it and scoot.


At last, a shadowy crab-spectre, way down

in the murky, undulous water worrying the bait,

was cue for me to scoop him into a net

quick as a minnow, and shake him

into a bushel basket.


The child that was me couldn’t resist

peering into the darkness of that waiting

water during our long, long watch.


A watch, but my father never looked,

all his senses concentrated in one:

the touch of the inscrutable crab

at the bait, the subtle

pull on the string.


Clever, irreligious, witty and blunt,

my father never would have dreamed

he was teaching me an enduring lesson:

that you just have to wait, attentive

to your string in the water,

and that he comes when he comes,

a bit like prayer.




Johanna Caton, O.S.B., is a Benedictine nun.  Born in Virginia, she lived in the U.S. until adulthood, when her monastic vocation took her to England, where she now lives.  Her poems have appeared in both online and print publications including The Ekphrastic Review, The Windhover, Leaping Clear, and The Catholic Poetry Room web page.  She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee.