Tell Me What Prayer You Say
Tell me what prayer you say
when you’ve been afraid, terrorized, misunderstood, forgotten, discarded.
What words do you use?
Do you have faith?
What prayer do you say when your body, mind, soul, life
have been trampled on, or assaulted?
What prayer do you say when you’re fighting for your life,
or the lives of others?
Is marching your prayer?
What songs do you sing when they’ve stolen everything,
Burnt or tortured or shot through you or near you?
After you’ve buried your family, fled, drowned, collapsed?
What is your prayer for the child alone at sea?
Which direction do you face?
East or west?
Where is your True north or south?
Is your head covered or exposed?
What prayer do you say when they have come for you,
labeled, sorted, and separated you,
detained you, stripped you, held you down, shackled you, enslaved you?
What is your prayer for the ones who are already dead, or for the dying?
What about Saying the Names or the markers or protecting the sacred grounds?
What about the wind and the sun?
What about the Earth?
What prayer do you say when your child wants to
live, but there’s not enough food, water, air, shelter, medicine?
The bombs and guns and bullets shatter everything in classrooms and
in all the broken places here or there.
Where is the clean air, the safe drinking water, the place for dreaming?
What prayer did you say when they took your father, mother, brother, sister, child, land, food, water, home, homeland?
Are you standing?
Do you pray at night?
Do tears roll into your pillow?
Do you have a pillow?
Are the stars your roof?
What prayer do you say when you’re kneeling,
leaning against a wall, stretching down on the rug,
sitting on a bench, or a branch?
Are you dancing in a field?
Do you light candles and drink wine?
Do you have bread?
Are there flowers? Feathers? Stones? Beads? Holy water?
When you stand on the mountain or in the valley or on the street corner
do you see a way forward?
Are we not, every single one of us here under the same sky?
Do you pray to go forward, or are you about surviving only this next minute?
Is it the same thing? Is standing still an option? Do you carry signs?
Is your prayer Resistance? Is your prayer Justice and Freedom for every single human, or just for some?
What prayer did you say when you were abandoned, lied to,
when you were disapproved of, given up on, turned away from, shut out,
stepped on, beaten down, shackled, locked in?
What prayer do you say if you’re not strong enough?
If you’re sick?
If you’re dying?
What prayer do you say for living?
For animals and bees, rivers and trees?
Is there a prayer for when you’ve lost hope?
Who hears that prayer?
What if you don’t believe in God or that anyone is listening, or anyone cares?
You are different, you are the same, and you’ve been hurt badly.
You’re holding on, broken inside, and your legs buckle.
You’re still grateful for your legs,
and the floor beneath you.
What prayer did you say? All those years
you’ve cried over the elephants, bears, seals, the coral reef,
the lost and stolen children, the tigers, the lions, the whale,
and you’ve done everything you could
And, it is never enough, and you tire of fighting to be seen, to be recognized,
for your birthright,
your human right; that you are born, and therefore, you exist,
a human, born for
Peace and Love, but denied it daily.
Until you’re buried, and even then the liars and bulldozers come.
You’ve cried over children and the ground, over hangings, over beatings,
Over evil in hoods or suits, they shape shift,
They bear unwanted gifts, stealing lives.
We cry together over lost dreams
and broken pipes, while poison flows, and the tears of millions fall.
Still: silence and violence. Still: Never Again.
But, it continues, over and over again, never stopping.
What are the words for that?
What picture do you paint?
What dance do you dance?
What music do you play or sing?
What funny story do you tell?
How do you pray when you don’t believe in prayer?
What is your prayer today?
When you need a miracle; that is: a hand up, a door opened, someone who sees you and doesn’t look away when you’re suffering.
What if your prayer isn’t heard today but you need it to be heard today?
Who has your back?
Who’s with you?
Who gets it?
When you’ve been hurt and you already despair and a man of the cloth
Says, go die, what prayer is there for that?
When you or someone you know has given up, and too many around you want you gone,
And all you want is air, water, to be free, to love.
When after waiting, after being crushed, after disappointment, after being silenced, after broken promises or treaties, after despair, and somehow you’re still standing,
and maybe you even know that you’ll never give up,
And you know exactly what you’re fighting for, but you still need help.
How do you help?
Did you ask what is needed?
Did you listen?
Is your prayer a hug, a bowl of rice, warm gloves?
When hope is gone, what is your prayer?
How do you pray for strength and to not give up?
Which part of you do you call on to get through the day? This hour?
Is your job not to save another?
Is every child and creature not a world of wonder?
Does your planet not spin? Does gravity not hold you here?
In your prayers,
Do you see light and the infinite colors?
Do you float? Rise? Chant?
Do you say: count me, too.
Have you saved yourself?
Have you saved another?
Tell me what prayer you say.
© Elana Halberstadt, January 27, 2017
It’s been almost a year since I’ve written here.
Been dealing with lots of health stuff, and so much has happened here and around the country and world. There’s been way too much collective grief, hurt, disappointment, anger, and harm done to children and innocents everywhere. Aleppo, Syria alone makes me question humanity, makes me wonder (again and again) if mercy is only for some and not all. It seems so.
All the pain in the world, in all the corners where lives were cut short, or were ruined, families torn apart, or obliterated. Like no one learns from history and our species
seems hell bent on self and planet destruction.
The many stars, artists, thinkers, humans who left us.
In the midst of this, and everyone’s individual private or public life battles, people go on and live. Remarkably, people continue working, laughing, making art, pushing forward. We all do what we have to do to get by, and there’s no way through it but through it. Which sucks a lot of the time. And this year has been difficult for many, and these are extraordinary times. Lots of WTF?! Seriously?! And now what?!
I don’t know about you, but I could do with a minimum three-month long hibernation right about now.
My hopes and wishes for the New Year include love and peace, clean water, fresh air, good food, safety, freedom, justice, more kindness, an end to cruelty of all kinds, for science and facts to (eventually, and before its entirely too late) win the day, and for the wildlife creatures and seas and skies to keep on and keep on while we each find our own ways to keep going, be with those we love, and resist and organize peacefully so we can work to get our democracy back for everyone.