godhunt

Dear God
(for lack of a better word),

I don’t want to personify you here,

but I do speak to my toothbrush
in the second person,
so I assume that means
I can refer to you as “you”
without inferring gender or human traits.

And I don’t usually disclaim my shorthand,

but with you,
I think it’s important.

I’m in San Francisco’s mission district
at 9 on a Saturday morning
and I’ve been on a scavenger hunt
for two hours now,
looking for you.
I’m out of practice.
It’s been awhile.
I started before I woke up
with flashes of the lover I can’t have
sitting under my eyelids.
I held them there for as long as I could—
her cheeks, her hands,
the angles of his body around mine,
the sound of their voice—and I fought the sun,
begging to hold onto that intimate joy
as though there were actually
another person involved in it.
It was the loss of this comfort
that got me drunk last night
and left me
to wake up in a new neighborhood.

God, I’m on the gritty, bumpy, 49-line ride
that slices the city in half
and it’s carrying me to Grace Cathedral—
or it was.
I just realized I’ve gone too far.
This search is becoming too complicated.

I told you,
its been awhile.

I wouldn’t be here at all
except that halfway through writing
a trite love poem—
dribbling unrequited
coffee-soaked emotions
onto a butter-smeared page—
I realized
this is all about you.
Most elusive things are.

I thought of hitting the Zen Center,
but I was too late—
they were already deep in meditation.
My second thought was church—
any church—
but it’s Saturday, God.
I’m off by a day.
My third thought was a meeting,
but how do I explain
to familiar faces
that I’m not a member anymore,
I just need god?
I’d be too worried about them
and not quiet enough for you.

I’m trying to be good
as I walk the city now,
but I keep flashing back
to that lover I can’t have—
overgendered and genderless—
like you.
like me.

Two strangers
have complimented my necklace—
the one I slept in—
like I did my earrings,
my bra,
my belt.
I’m sweaty.
I’m stinky.
I’m searching.
The sun is hot.
This hill is steep.
But I think you’re at the top.

I found the cathedral.
It’s big and dark
and doesn’t really look like you,
but the air outside it feels fresh.
There’s graffiti stenciled on the ground:
a blue robot
that says,
“I WILL SAVE YOU.”
Maybe you’ve been in the sidewalks.

The inside of the cathedral
is echoey and empty.
I knelt for ten minutes
on a cushion facing the pulpit
and had nothing to say to you.

I tried to leave.

A sweet-spoken gentleman with a nametag
asked if I had any questions about the building.
I asked if there were a restroom
and he happily led me through a locked, unmarked door
and pointed to the bathroom
at the back.
It had four urinals
sinking all the way to the floor,
three ancient sinks,
and two stalls
with extra low toilets.
I had been sent
without apology
to the men’s and boy’s room,
and I think I saw you
in the marble walls.

I tried to leave.

A small boy was walking the labyrinth,
bouncing around its corners
with squeaky sneakers,
picking up speed,
and trying to complete the maze.
Beside him was a looming,
cartoonified statue
with arms outstretched.
Before I noticed its title,
“Saint Francis,”
I had assumed
it was a woman.
It had simple curves,
a simple robe,
hair pulled up,
a Mona Lisa smile,
and deep stone eyes
that reflected sunlight
in a glint
that made it look like it was
staring at me
intently.
It looked almost identical
to the androgynous angels
I doodled in my notebook margins
when I was fourteen and suicidal.
I felt unnerved.

I tried to leave.

But then I stopped to walk the labyrinth,
making each step slow and careful.
It took
a long
time.
When I got to the center,
I felt protected by echoes of myself,
surrounded by my own
commitment
to adventure,
cradled by my own effort.

I tried to leave.

I found the gift shop,
hungry for a replica
of the Saint Francis statue,
but all they had was a postcard,
and its photo didn’t look me in the eye.
Still, it was only a quarter,
and that’s a good price for a memory,
eye contact or not.

I left.

I’m hungry now, God.
Can I find you in food?
My feet hurt, God.
Can I find you in shoes?
I’m thirsty, God.
Are you in the water?

Or are you in these needs?

Dear God
(for lack of a better word),

I understand now,
why I have always rejected the idea
that we are made in your image,
why I refuse to let people personify you,
why I can’t just use a third person pronoun,
capitalize it,
and call it a prayer.

To be human
in our language
is to be gendered.
And if you are gendered…

God,
I don’t believe
most of the stories I hear about you,
and I don’t often have much use
for your presence
in my mind.
But days like today,
when I’m aching to matter
and aching to connect
and aching to not be alone,

sometimes,
I remember to pray.

And God,
today you are androgynous.
Today you are an omnisexual butch queen.
Today you are adventurous and messy.
Today you demand to be seen.
Today you are sitting at the top of Nob Hill,
eating figs, drinking whiskey, and body painting.
And today,
I am made in your image.

Amen.

-Sarah Dopp
9/3/07

[revised 2/16/08.]


Posted by on November 5th, 2007 at 01:17 pm

Category: poetry, thoughts 8 comments »

8 Responses to “godhunt”

  1. Dopp Juice » Blog Archive » On Religion (since we’ve already covered sex and politics…)

    […] the Bay Area). I recently grappled with it from a gender perspective and ended up with a beautiful poem that healed a lot of my old […]

  2. Emma McCreary

    Reading this brought up tears for me, Sarah. I’ve also felt that aching, to matter, to not be alone, and I also found solace in finding my own way to God.

    Reading this, I think of the way as queer folk our stories are not told – in pop culture – but also not told in religion, the original font of stories about Who We Are.

    I remember looking at a magazine stand full of bridal magazines, when I was realizing that Holy Shit I Really Am a Lesbian, and feeling invisible. I felt that same aching, to see myself reflected back somehow by the world around me, my deepest self validated and made whole. We are sold this idea that we are supposed to feel whole all by ourselves, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. Independence is good, but we also need to feel a part of something, to be the part that completes something, to be part of a circuit, to be a meaningful part of a bigger design. Feeling and affirming that connection is part of our wholeness.

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s beautiful to me.

    [Reply]

  3. Lin

    Sarah, wow. I remember you sharing one of your poems with us at Grace’s (woolfecamp) house a while back and was captivated then, just as I was now as I read this piece.

    [Reply]

  4. Baruchness Monster

    I really love this piece. You capture what I know so many people in the city our age and not our age are going through. It flowed so well, usually you see a long poem and go, oh my god NEXT, but it totally captued me and sent me there. Great stuff!

    [Reply]

  5. Gabriel

    Hello,
    I am relatively new to the site; so to familiarize myself better, I chose to go through the past pages, and I found this. This is beautiful. It seriously moved me inside, and I thank you for it.

    Many Blessings,
    Gabriel

    [Reply]

  6. Ella

    Thank you for this.
    Beautiful.

    As a queer (and former Southern Baptist no less) finding a way to God whatever that may be and outside the definitions in a binary world is a challenge. I hope, as you say, God is in these needs. Because it is the needs that humanize us all. Today, for instance, I need to be back in the South and not looking at snow outside the window in April.

    And I needed this poem.

    [Reply]

  7. J. Sandy

    Sarah,

    One more place where God is present is in the beauty and connection between your writing and our reading of your words. Think of the Wizzard of Oz giving Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Lion what they were so desperately seeking. Like they, we just need to awake to the fact that what we seek is with us–God is not a “potted plant” which only inhabits churches, any more than we are meant to be one of two genders. I love your poem and I am deeply touched. Thanks for sharing.

    J. Sandy

    [Reply]

  8. johanna

    O.. Thanks!

    [Reply]


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