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Raych Jackson reads her poem, "Church Girl Learns to Pray Again".

Raych Jackson:

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Hi.  My name's Raych Jackson, and I'll be reading "Church Girl Learns to Pray Again" from my debut collection, Even the Saints Audition.  I chose this poem because this poem is the second to last poem of the whole collection and the whole book is about me struggling with God and shame and girlhood and this poem shifts the whole tone of the book.  I, you know how they say save the best for last?  This is one of my favorite poems of the collection.

Chuch Girl Learns to Pray Again

I dread when the food comes
at the restaurant.  My family prays

over each meal.  The saints' routine
is embarrassing.  I keep my eyes

open when my dad starts.  My secret
act of resistance.  We pray during all

the car rides.  I watch the world go by out
the window.  We pray on the edge

of my bed before we sleep.  I
still get a nightmare.  My parents pray

to remind God they're still there.  I 
stay quiet & hope God forgets me.  


God prefers to listen to
His saint over her daughter.  
I beg my mom to pray for me
while I'm high.  Everything is

a punishment.  I understand
what I did wrong.  The
worst type of sinner is
the sinner who knows 

better.  I tell her I'll come to church.
My mom offers to come to my house
instead.  I put her on speaker,
stay quiet & hope God forgets me.


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 worse
type of sinner is the sinner who knows
           better.  I'm a heathen falling

in love with a soul I don't deserve.  In the
morning, he rests his hand on my head
          while I pretend to be sleep.

I hear him pray for me in the silence.  
I stay quiet & hope God forgives me.  


Our kitchen is small.  We smash
into each other like we're trying
to merge the skills our mom's
taught us to survive.  This apartment
is our ragged kingdom.  We play
It while taping the windows in
the winter & platonically shower
to maximize hot water.  We pray
over our dinner before we eat, a 

recent routine I didn't know
I missed.  I'm out of practice.  We
learned to thank God before asking
for a favor.  He thanks God for the 
roof over our heads & the hands that made
the food, my hands.  I peek at him during
his prayer to make sure he means me.
The wrinkle in between his eyebrows
makes a cross.  


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 perfect

my amen to close out future prayers.  I nudge

him to roll on his side & soften his breathing.  

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?