Poem: A Prayer in April

A Prayer in April

Everyone is but a breath. (Psalm 39:5)

Notre Dame, after the Fire. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson

Creator,

if I had never read of our time in Eden,

of your breath in our lungs,

of our in-spir-ation into paradise,

I would have assumed

that the world had been born into burning.

We seem blissfully unaware

like frogs in a pot

Photo by Gerald Herbert
Graves from a cemetery are seen behind the burnt ruins of the Greater Union Baptist Church, one of three that recently burned down in St. Landry Parish.

(as the old adage goes)

that we are in danger

unless we catch a glimpse of

flames licking the sides of our steel vessel,

or devouring the spire

of the Notre Dame,

or consuming the sanctuaries of

Mount Pleasant, St. Mary & Greater Union.

Our friend Solomon reminds us that

all things are wearisome-

but nothing is as tiring as  

dodging bullets,

or putting out fires,

while we sing mournful songs to you

like Ave Maria

and We Shall Overcome.

“Destroy this temple and in 3 days I’ll raise it up,”

the Christ said,

but little did anyone know

which temple he meant-

until he returned.

“Peace,”

he had breathed on his disciples,

the Spirit filling their lungs,

his open wounds now proving

that anything is possible.

Is it true, God,

that the breath he left us

is the same breath that helps me

preach a sermon,

or blow out candles

to celebrate another year of life?

Is it the same breath I hold

when I pause to hear the death toll

of yet another shooting-

this time at

Poway’s Chabad

or New Zealand’s Al Noor Mosque?

Is it the same breath

I inhale and exhale in tandem

with my son wrapped

around my chest in quietness and trust?

Is it the same breath that escapes

in a sharp gasp when news reports

flood the media,

saying that more lives had been taken,

this time at UNC Charlotte?

My God,

what should I do?

For I am not Ezekiel

who could prophesy breath

into the slain and let them live.

In all my years,

I only know how to

blow on the tender, pink scrape

on Joseph’s knee

after he falls chasing bubbles

in the wind.

I can only whisper

in small quiet breaths

the truth of your love

to a friend who has nothing left.

I can only squeeze the hand

of the patient whose lungs

inflate and deflate

with the rhythmic timing of

ICU machines.

On my best days,

I can run on adrenaline and coffee,

air pumping through my lungs,

while I sprint down hospital corridors

from trauma to trauma.

On my worst days it feels like

all I can do is inhale and exhale

and be grateful that my participation

in the process requires nothing from me.

I used to pray that you would stop all this.

I used to beg that you would change the minds

of rich people and politicians,

so they would spend their money

not on shattered rose windows,

but for clean water in Flint,

for help in Puerto Rico,

for literally anything else,

but another damn building.

I used to pray that you would change

the hardened hearts,

like Pharaoh’s,

who delight in the extermination of

your people simply because

of the color you made them.

I used to pray that I would be more educated,

more influential, more powerful,

(and yes, even more religious)

just so I could fix anything at all.

My anger starts to catch like a spark,

but it’s extinguished quickly

with an intentional warm breeze

on a not-so-warm day

and I can swear I

hear you say

“Peace.”

 

“The Resurrection” by Jyoti Sahi 

I close my eyes,

And place two fingers

to the crook of my wrist.

A sea green vein protrudes

like a river on a map

to let me know where to touch

and I inhale.

My pulse,

with each perfect beat

might as well be yours,

and then I realize that it is-

and so it is

with every person

who might stop to listen

in the midst of their grief and confusion.

And I realize that all passes away

and returns to you-

that for every fire that is kindled

and extinguished,

something new grows

beneath the rubble.

Your truth comes not as a platitude,

but as a fortitude,

inviting me

to breathe and move when I am ready,

not just to rebuild buildings,

but communities,

not just to extinguish fires,

but to plant new life.

And just as soon as the words leave my mouth

to ask you for another thing,

you breathed in me,

just as your Son breathed so long ago

and said,

“I am sending you.”



Janine Carambot Santoro is an Associate Chaplain at St. Luke’s University Hospital and a Library Technician at Bethlehem Area Public Library, in Bethlehem, PA. Janine received her B.A. in English and Psychology from Rutgers University (NJ) and her M.Div from Drew Theological School (NJ). Her recent research interests include public theology, Christian ethics, and pedagogies of healing. She currently enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and creating curriculum and workshops for sacred, (w)holistic work to be done in secular places.