A friend asked me to pray for her.
She does not know
my most awful secret—
I do not know where my prayers went.
Maybe my prayers are aloft in winds
that were never scooped up for review.
Prayers decades old—each launched with
anticipation’s faint acrid film upon my tongue.
“Prayer can move mountains,”
Sister Pauline told our second grade class.
So I spent my recesses and lunches praying
for almost an entire school year.
Well, nothing changed.
And those were my very best prayers,
I said them exactly as I was taught.
I do not know where those prayers went.
I kept praying. Later, I tried
new gods, old gods and made-up genderless gods.
In Latin, Sanscrit, Hebrew…
Alas, I do not know where those prayers went.
I prayed fervently for love
for decades. On pillows, onto sleeves and
into every blackness that that my desperate hope
led me. Faithfully, without question.
Maybe I was facing the wrong direction
or did not have the appropriate attire.
Finally, I stopped praying—because no god that I knew of
knew where my prayers went either.
Even if a deity relented, it would take an eternity
to hear all my tearful requests.
Even if they all arrived today, sorted by topic
and arranged by urgency.
So, when someone asks me to pray for them,
It is the kindest thing that I can do.
Because I do not know where my prayers go.
Even now, I am always looking, looking
for their sounds, the taste of tears that would identify them.
Surely, they are still somewhere,
wherever my prayers went.
I hope that one day
I’ll find all my prayers
caught in some trees or maybe
strewn on a beach like starfish after a storm.
When I find them, I will gather them up
and hold onto them forever
Because everyone wants to know
where their prayers went.