a poem for sunday.

“Little Girls in Church” by Kathleen Norris


I’ve made friends
with a five-year-old
Presbyterian. She tugs at her lace collar,
I sympathize. We’re both bored.
I give her a pencil:
she draws the moon,
grass, stars
and I name them for her,
printing in large letters.
The church bulletin
begins to fill.
Carefully, she prints her name–KATHY–
and hands it back.

Just last week
in New York City, the Orthodox liturgy
was typically intimate,
casual. An old woman greeted the icons
one by one
and fell asleep
during the Great Litany
People went in and out,
to smoke cigarettes and chat on the steps.

A girl with long brown braids
was lead to the icons
by her mother. They kissed each one,
and the girl made a confession
to the youngest priest. I longed to hear it,
to know her name.


I worry for the girls.
I once had braids
and wore lace that made me suffer.
I had not yet done the things that would need forgiving.
Church was for singing, and so I sang.
I received a Bible, stars
for all the verses;
I turned and ran.

The music brought me back
from time to time,
singing hymns
in the great breathing body
of a congregation.
And once in Paris, as
I stepped into Notre Dame
to get out of the rain,
the organist began to play:
I stood rooted to the spot,
I looked up, and believed.

It didn’t last.
Dear girls, my friends,
may you find great love
within you, starlike
and wild, as wide as grass,
solemn as the moon.
I will pray for you. if I can.

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