Praying the Rosary

By Laura Bramon

RosaryMy first rosary is invisible: a string of children’s voices ricocheting off the concrete walls of a slum convent, flying up to God and to the cold gray batting of the Altiplano sky. The children’s eyes are chapped with wind and cold, lines feathered like wings in their brown skin. This gives them a mask of wisdom: as if they can see beyond what I see, as if they can see God.

They see His Mother alive in the tiny concrete woman in the outdoor niche, to whom we herd them so they can bark their prayers. Sweet children, whose soft heads smell of moss and cold, whose breath is warm and gluey with the dried milk we feed them. First, we train the sucker feet of their lips to the tipped cups; we place in their hands the round, fleshy little loaves of bread they rip up and eat.

And then we line them up and walk them out into the sunlight to say the rosary in their backwater Spanish. I stand in their midst and stare at a woman I don’t know, her mantel draped like a crenulated shell, the warmth of the children’s bodies like a shuffling tide lapping at my hands and knees. I learn the prayers from the children’s mouths and we shout them out to her. [Read more…]

Learning Poetry, Unlearning God

By Natasha Oladokun

Rosary01In my sophomore year of college, I wrote a poem. Though I had no idea how to go about doing this, I composed a page and half of hifalutin mumbo jumbo that I was quite proud of and eager to show one of my teachers. He asked me to read the poem out loud to him.

He said some kind things. Then, after a few moments of quiet, he asked, “Would you talk like this to God?”

I shook my head.

He smiled. “Well, if you wouldn’t say it in a prayer, don’t put it in a poem.”

What my professor did not know is that he’d touched a raw nerve in my view of the sacred. The truth is, my prayers often were stock, mechanical laundry lists, dusted with a few O Lords and Father Gods to remind me of whom I was addressing.

I believed—or intellectually assented, at least—to the concept of God being near and ever-present. There is a saying that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. But in prayer I spoke to God with more distance than I would toward a stranger.

And yet, with study, poetry has become my rickety bridge from desolation to the divine. As it is for many others, I am sure, my default setting is often that of detachment: a proclivity for thinking of God as distant, obstructed—intensified when I’m feeling lonely and anxious or condemned by my own failings. [Read more…]

Peace, My Animal

Mice

“Benedic, anima mea,” I say each night to the mouse that lives behind my desk. I know what the phrase speaks of a soul, but “animal” often has more meaning to me than “soul.” Occasionally I quote Ada Limón’s poem “The Long Ride”: How good it is to love live things, even when what they’ve done is terrible. Her poem refers to a horse that killed its rider when spooked; my benediction forgives the droppings I find next to my paints each morning. In my more ill-tempered moments, I kick the desk before going to bed and hiss, “I’m an island of mercy, mouse.”

Because I am. It’s not that I can’t kill an animal. It’s that I overthink, gather information, and turn it over in my mind, especially when that information unsettles or intrudes. The consequence of so much information seeking is that I hold strange things in my heart, fall in love whenever I’m frightened.

I’m not frightened of the mouse. Given the right opportunity, I’d be willing to kiss its little ears right off. But I’m troubled by its intrusion into my space, by the fact that a living being is running about while I sleep. The mouse is one more thing in a long list of things I can control, one more thing after which I have to clean up. [Read more…]

Prayer: When You Can’t Find the Words, Make Them Up

fish

By Natalie Vestin

I spent much of this past summer watching my friend’s three-year-old girl, Mia, as my friend prepared for the birth of her son. I’d met Mia last year in Boston before her family had all moved back home to Beijing. Now, Mia was in Minnesota, living in an old Saint Paul house where she could watch birds and bunnies from the porch.

The first time I visited, Mia yelled at me and her mom because we were speaking English and she couldn’t understand us. So we agreed that Mia would teach me Chinese and I’d teach her English. We drew sea creatures together and learned their names. When I said something in English that Mia found odd, she yelled the Chinese version of it back to me, putting the long diphthongal vowels of the upper Midwest into the word and then collapsing in giggles.

I don’t understand children very well and am a little scared of them. When Mia moved to the US, I thought of her as something helpless to be carried along by her mom, as if the new culture and the buzz of a befuddling language wouldn’t bother her at all. [Read more…]

Maybe Tomorrow I Will be a Mystic Mom

tumblr_m9dxvneSpU1re1snbo1_500

By Christiana N. Peterson

I am outdoors in the late afternoon and sitting cross-legged on a quilt from which I can view the garden. This spot, under the shade of a large sugar maple—the setting idyllic and agrarian—should be perfect for quiet prayer. But it’s not.

I think I am emerging from the haze of an anxiety that caught hold of me when my baby was three months old: panic attacks and mind-spiraling fears that left me feeling unbalanced and overwhelmed.

As the primary caregiver for my three children, I regard their naptimes as precious hours. During their naps I am alone and try to pull myself out of the storm. Today, however, my baby is rebelling against naptime. Swinging her in the hammock beside me has become the only way I can get her to sleep. [Read more…]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X