Raych Jackson – “Church Girl Learns to Pray Again”


One: I dread
when the food comes at restaurants. Our family prays over each meal. The saint’s routine is embarrassing. I keep my eyes open when my dad starts, my secret act of resistance. We pray during car rides. I watch the world go by out the window. We pray on the edge of my parents’ bed
every night before we go to sleep. I still get a nightmare. My parents pray to remind God
they’re still here. I stay quiet and hope God forgets me. Two: God prefers to listen
to his saint over a druggie. I beg my mom to pray
for me when I’m too high. Everything is a punishment. I understand what I did wrong. The worst type of sinner is the sinner
who knows better. And I tell her I’ll come to church. My mom offers to come to my house instead. I put her on speaker, stay quiet
and hope God forgets me. Three: His house is a sanctuary
I’ve invaded for a week. When I’m away from him,
he prays for my safety. I stay here to save his breath. The worst type of sinner
is the sinner who knows better, and I’m a heathen falling in love
with a soul I don’t deserve. In the morning,
he rests his hand on my head, and I pretend to be asleep. I tell myself he’s checking for a fever. I hear him pray for me in the silence. I stay quiet and hope God forgives me. Four: Our kitchen is small. We bump into each other cooking. We’re trying to merge the skills
our moms taught us to survive, and this apartment is our ragged kingdom. We play games while taping the windows
and platonically shower to save hot water. We pray over the food before we eat, a familiar routine I didn’t know I miss. I let him lead
because I am out of practice. His granny also taught him to thank God
before asking for a favor. He thanks God for the hands
that made this food, my hands. I don’t hear the rest. I’m fumbling through my own prayer. Five: I practice praying
while he snores in my ear. His sighs are my cheat code. God must have a soft spot for me. I’m not dead yet. I made half my rent through poetry. I maintain a relationship with my family. I’m ready to lead and ask for help. I perfect my “amen”
to close out future prayers. I nudge him in his sleep
to soften the snores. He reaches out to hold me
without opening an eye. “Thank you, God, Amen,” I whisper. How can I claim
God doesn’t listen to sinners? How else could I get such a blessing? (applause)

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