God, for her, was a repetition of please until the word became a vibration became a sound out her mouth. God was first a looking back in the skull, eyes closed, her pupils rolling toward crown. She could feel something there, where the looking hurt. “Please please please please please. Forgive me for being me for being me for not being more.”
When you feel guilty for being you, the prayer goes: thank you thank you thank you thank you. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you, I love you I love you I love you I love you I love—in Jesus name Amen.”
Her religion began in the lilac bush. It was a place to feel disappeared. Men played at horseshoe pits unaware of the child worshiping near. The perfect twig, she snapped from that bush, peeled it of its bark all afternoon. She kept it in a box safe for evening and placed it on the rug in a ceremony before bed. Her bodily arrangements in bed, daily, became a nightly unsettling into dark—not a fear of dark, but a restlessness when her mother switched the light. But the ceremony of twig, thank you, and always, the small vibrations of her heart, amen.
Ask, is there anything larger than a dark room to a child? Or, how about this: the child has learned that counting never stops. One two skip a few, infinity is how it starts. Infinity for her was where above her head became above her roof became the darkness between the stars. Do we all think of it like that? Do we awe up at infinity cosmographically, or is it best to go feeling for it in our lowly bodies, between organs and fluids, within cells, within parts of cells, between mucoused and connector parts, toward that vastness of self within each self and—?
The child did not know. Like us—we do not know. Infinity is something best left to math. God is best left to the child, who had only some vague and mystical heartburn after playing a game of womb with the blanket, birthing herself onto the living room floor into the light and counting numbers that kept rolling out her mouth.
Horseshoes. The child is in a bush praying with her mind and mouth. Horseshoes is the game she hears, a game with rules, certain measures, for instance: a ringer sounds with a specific clank. Near silence is when a stray hits the grass, and a point, if you are listening from, say, inside of a lilac bush, you can tell by the sound the men make after a thud in the pit. But that is just it, the sounds men make. The girl heard voices in pleasure, or in argument, or else in speech or in praise or in short talk. She heard words aimed at bodies foreign in girth, or aimed into the air into God knows what vulgar universe.
Also: the branches muffled the words of men at play. She heard only sounds like conversations, sounds like the voices beyond her door upon waking in the room she fell asleep in, waking always in the same room she fell asleep in, alone but safe in womb, be her womb shrub or blanket, so long as she felt disappeared.
The sounds men make are these: (insert them).
Let us imagine that this girl’s body was small, that she stole inside the bush as if she belonged. Did she belong? We do not know, but perhaps branches scratched and left their mark. And consider this child as one who played in cardboard boxes, encapsulating herself under a table-horse in a garage thick with sawdust. A package void of light. Our girl in there would plug her ears when her father revved the table-saw above. She was terrified of the fingers he would surely cut off, fingers that would fall into the yard of her box like the curse from some wrathful heaven. She was afraid in that way of surely wanting it.
When you feel guilty for being you—
So she prayed. For fear of those terrible fingers, for want of those terrible fingers. For him to be unable to count on them, for her need to keep the score.