I use to fall asleep mid prayer,
trusting that a guardian angel would conclude
the list of things I am grateful for.
I use to fall asleep mid prayer,
otherwise, I could not sleep.
I was told to thank God for the things I do not want to wake up without.
Waking up with a mouthful of unfinished prayers was a characteristic of mine.
The first seconds of consciousness pushing Hail Mary’s from my lips.
Last night, I fell asleep praying to the God of adrenaline.
I thanked her for each muscle in my body. I listed each one, starting with my eyes.
I want to wake up with all of me, even if all means cramped and uncomfortable.
I want to wake up pushing poetry into existence, calling it my child.
I want to nurture my words, I want them to feel the safety of living
between walls that do not change as the week progresses.
Wednesday evenings will mean nothing to them.
They will stay put: bags unpacked, underwear folded in the drawer where it belongs.
I will teach them to pray.
I will teach them to sleep when they are tired.
Eat when they are hungry.
Run when they must.
They will learn that it doesn’t matter whether you wake up with prayers or poetry.
What matters is what you notice.
What you notice latches onto your freckles, your moles, it tans your skin.
And if that is the case then my skin is tinted from an evening at the airport,
when the sun was setting, throwing the color of lemons and tangerines at the passengers.
The children playing chess,
a man drinking coffee with his legs propped on a suitcase,
a woman sat cross legged in a chair with her thumb and first finger are pressed together,
squeezing her fingertips, fusing them into one.
The wire from her ear buds fell down her chest, her eyes shut.
She does not know of the angel she has become.
No one in this airport knows of the angel they have become.
I do my best to keep track of the details, I do my best to remember what I’ve noticed.
–a purse balanced on a suitcase, a foil pouch of chocolate almonds in my lap–
My brother sits beside me. Like the rest of us, he is also an angel, wearing the descending sun like a halo.
It began in high school, I believe. I sat in the front row. Metal crates were connected beneath the desks for us girls to store our books during class. The theology teacher was new but, like most teachers who try to connect with students, she kept a shoebox on her desk with pieces of paper and pencils for students to leave questions. “Anything you want,” she clarified. “I will answer anything. Theology related or not.” One Thursday morning, after announcements and prayer, she swirled her hand through the shoebox. She unfolded a thick index card and, out loud, she read, “Is it okay to attend a gay wedding?” Before answering, she refolded the card and tossed it into the recycle bin. “No, it’s not okay. It is sinful.”
It is three years later and I am at my desk trying to pin point where the shift began. I think theology class might be a good place to start but still I am uncertain. Last night I saw a movie with my mom. We stopped for coffee afterward. She drank a cinnamon latte. I had hot chocolate. With our fingertips, we broke off pieces of a coconut bar and placed them in our mouths. A song played throughout the coffee shop. It was a song I had only heard before in passing or mindlessly while driving. But last night I heard it differently.
“What is a renegade?” I asked my mom. She reached for her phone and adjusted her reading glasses. After a few seconds of typing she said, “Renegade. Adjective. Having abandoned one’s religious beliefs.”