My father must have
asked me to come to church
at least 10 times,
tomorrow
in the morning, when I love to
stretch slow, breathe deep,
turn on some Spice Girls
and ignore my division
and multiplication homework
until noon.

“Nyet, pap. Ne-hochu.”
Want has nothing to do with it,
he replies. It is about
necessity.
You are Russian.
Come pray.
Come find some peace,
he insists. As if he could
force feed it to me
and have it warm my limbs
from their eternal anxiety. As if
force-feeding is a
peaceful experience.

How do you teach devotion?

He said this to an 11-year-old
whose shoulder aches
from standing:
3 hours of standing and bowing,
bowing and standing,
standing and bowing and crossing yourself
until my tongue is dry
and my mind is empty,
and I never understood the prayers
in the first place.

What does it mean to humble yourself?

I just tried to remember all the lyrics
to Spice Girls’ “Naked”,
which in retrospect
seems a little blasphemous
to remember in church.

What is peace, anyway?

When your main worry
is the sleepover at your friends’ place
where they will serve pop to drink
and you will need to fart,
but won’t,
and your stomach will hurt all night.
That is necessity. Friendship
in a land that doesn’t understand
the need for church or prayer,
(not in the same way you need)
only pools and new shoes
from the only mall in town.
These are things we can’t afford,
but pain I can manage.

Don’t you see there are different ways to sacrifice yourself?

I cannot afford to be more pious
than the people I am trying to convince
that I am the same.
Lowest common denominators
are the key to friendship
in a new land.
So fuck your church and your peace,
and give me $20
to go to the food court.
(Except I would never
swear at my father.)

(Only in my head, mimicking what I heard
my English friends do.)

Image credit: justinthlam on Flickr

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3 thoughts on “Peace for an 11-year-old

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