When I think of prayer, I don’t think of bended knees
and bowed backs under the kaleidoscope lights of painted glass
or the grim-faced, robed priests offering bread and wine,
as if that would satiate the hunger we feel for something more
than the ordinary moments of desperation and loneliness.
I don’t think of brightly lit cathedrals,
or somber figures in white and black,
with their womanhood hidden or cut off.
I don’t think of the crusades
or the thousands of corpses piled up,
high as if to reach the Lord on his throne in the sky.
I don’t think of my mother, frozen
and sitting next to me on hard benches, unable
to take the sacrament because she found redemption
in the arms of a woman instead.
A woman who taught me to swim and climb trees and ride bikes
because I didn’t have a father.
I don’t think of the whispers and stares
that drift up past painted arches,
and that still follow my family to this day.
I don’t think of the cross the savior bore,
because I know that he left us all with a bigger burden.
The burden of righteousness.
The burden of being one thing, Christian, and nothing else.
The burden that crushes my friend Grace every day,
as she holds her girlfriend close, and feels dirty
when she whispers the words “I love you.”
I don’t think of his love for us, or asking forgiveness,
because God calls his children sinners, and we are all orphans on earth.
When I think of prayer,
I think about walking home on summer nights
after six-hour shifts at the bar, sweaty and tired
from pretending I care about the purposeless,
bored people drowning their sorrows
in the curve of a wine glass.
I think about the cool air as it rushes
over my skin on the way out the door,
and the goose bumps that remind me I’m still alive.
I think about the black faceless sky on those nights,
broken by stars, and the dimly lit streets
I think about walking in the middle of the road,
arms thrown out wide,
letting the music on my Ipod,
more understanding than the hymnals,
drown out the noise of the oncoming cars,
fervently hoping to make it
out of the way in time,
and wondering in that same moment,
so what if I didn’t?
Author: Chelsea Griffin
Editor: Catherine Monkman