Prodigal Daughter

Kamilah Aisha  Moon

Who proclaimed the healing mojo
of wood altars, blood-red carpets & stained glass?
A single cross hanging; polished brass bowls.
It must be real, found all over the world
configured like this. & me, bowing before it,
finally understanding
what the word beseech really means.

I've come to be held up, to keep the fallings
at bay. But listen, this NY parish doesn't sing gospel
the right way. They don't sang it—
leaving out shouts, moans, vocal runs
& downhome syntax—“I just can't give up now”

will never be “I don't feel no ways tired.”
It's not the same, it ain't. I can hear the notes
missing how the old words fit. This is not
the song I need to sing tonight. How foolish,
attempting to properly conjugate struggle.

Lines form to pray & wash hands.
About to sprinkle my face, the last thought
I should be thinking stops me. Who knows
where all of these hands have been!
& could my clean be someone else's filth?
How silly to be on this earth nearly 40 years
& still worry about contamination. Everything
has been touched, even what was

buried in ice, thawing again. The subway's full
of sin, the sullied riding side by side. Seems like
my feet used to peel & remain soft on their own.
But when I look down now, heels hardened by all
they've had to carry, or stare at what happened
to my face after an unholy baptism,
no amount of scrubbing matters.

I've come to be saved, to remember why
I'm still worthy. But I'm becoming convinced
a good memory is a passport to hell, all things
that soothe before singeing.
Perhaps like those in Manila in 2012, & the Gulf Coast
in 2005 & 2012, I want water to be
a good thing again, like love. How strange

to answer the beg
of so many thirsts, unable to swallow.

Last updated December 12, 2022