Where My Prayers Went

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,

I don’t.

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.

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