A Prayer Beneath the Half-Spring Sun

James Roach
The curly-haired man
approached my car
in a Safeway parking lot.
I button pushed my window down
preparing to let him know
I had no spare change.
Instead, he introduced himself as Brazilian,
gave a name I don’t recall.
There was sincerity
and thoughtful resolve
in his eyes when he asked if he could pray
for me.
My anxiety said yes,
thinking surely he would leave
and add me to the list of shoppers souls
he’d already gathered.
He stood beneath the half spring sun,
asked my name,
and lowered his head in prayer.
I only remember he spoke to Jesus,
I didn’t mention I’m also Jewish,
theology uncalled for in moments like these.
After his prayer,
he splayed four books like playing cards,
books I didn’t recognize
as anything I’d ever want to read.
When he asked if I wanted to invest in one,
my brow furrowed as I declined,
told him I was expected somewhere else,
a house that had to be cleaned,
a house I would miss the exit for
twenty minutes later,
too hung up
on what had just happened.
Him and his prayer
took up a space
I’d never imagined was sacred.
I wouldn’t have expected
being inscribed as transgressor,
a means to meet his righteous quota,
would shake both me
and the foundations
I didn’t know I’d been trusting.
Published in the book of life
during my Bat Mitzvah,
I suddenly worried this man
would jeopardize my “in”
with a god I’m not even sure exists.
I agonized further,
cleaning an already spotless kitchen,
eighteen miles south
and unnerved by a man so sure
he can speak to Jesus.

James Roach (he/him) attended the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio when he was 18 which he will brag about forever. He is most creative between the hours of up-too-late and is it even worth going to bed? The quiet mystery of the night has always inspired him. He dug up his midwest roots to live in Olympia, Wa., not too far from some sleepy volcanoes and beaches to write home about.