The performing arts center is too small
to hold the entire festival
and the spillover is cupped
in a stone cathedral.
The poets stand in the pulpit
and the audience sits in the pews,
listening to voices echo
off of stained glass windows
and high wooden rafters.
As I gaze into the tranquil face
of a messiah that is not mine,
I think about how all poetry
can double as prayer to something.
This place reminds me of another church
I did not enter thinking of worship.
Picture this:
It is late on an empty Wednesday
when I begin to tremble
and the undercurrent of “I can’t”
runs through every muscle,
every eyelash.
Today I hate that tea is served
in flimsy paper cups
instead of mugs, because it means
I am not home.
Rain wets the roses on my skirt
the ones that could just as easily
be bloodstains
and I am crying,
I am running towards the chapel
into the arms
of a foreign god.
I find peace before that altar,
though this is far from a conversion —
I am Jewish
on the High Holy Days,
on all the rest.
Through sobs echoing off silent pews
I whisper please
without knowing
what it is that I beg for.
I am gone in the minutes
the tears take to pass,
but not before I drop two quarters
in the alms box,
thinking of tzedakah, charity,
and feeling that I owe a sacrifice
to something.




Sophie PanzerSophie Panzer is a student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, where she studies history and sexual diversity. She is trying (and mostly failing) to learn French so she can navigate the city better. She attended the 2014 Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and is the winner of regional keys and a national silver medal from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in YARN, Teen Ink, The Veg, and Yiara Magazine.

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