Author’s Note: “My love for Baltimore is fierce; I’m proud and protective of my city. I’m also impatient for us to improve, for Baltimore to be a place people won’t be so quick to criticize. This vignette captures the discouragement I sometimes feel that we’re so far from where we should, could, be.”
Baltimore Is Where
IF I STOP BELIEVING IN PRAYERS, it’ll be Baltimore’s fault.
Baltimore is where I learned when to pray: before dinner, at bedtime, kneeling during Mass. Back then, it felt like magic, a longer version of the wish I’d make blowing out birthday candles. Praying made me feel powerful. The Creator, Nurturer, Protector of all things was listening to me say I love you. I hope for. I’m afraid of.
At first, I was too young to even imagine receiving a response. But when, eventually, I discovered prayer is supposed to be a dialogue, I became eager for the holy half of the exchange. God doesn’t just hear. God answers.
Baltimore is where I learned the quietest part of prayer: how to listen, discern, receive. I practiced waiting instead of willing. Once I’d trained my ear, I delighted in the clarity of these conversations. Even when I didn’t like what I heard, I never again felt like I was talking to myself. Baltimore is where I came to expect divine answers.
Except when Baltimore is why I pray. Then, it’s as though the line has been severed. I’m again alone. While wrapping myself in words, I wonder if there’s a reason these particular prayers don’t seem to make their way to heaven.
dddddGod, I just want blood to stop staining our streets.
ddddddddddGod, please don’t make anyone else choose between eating and electricity.
ffffddfddfseffefdfdGod, when will our children know they are legends?
I pray any and everywhere. Running before breakfast, waiting in line, leaving work, I pray. I pray I pray I pray.
Sometimes I want to give up—until I remember how much I love. God. Baltimore. People. So, at least for now, I’ll keep saying prayers like they’re candles on a cake.
Kerry Graham is a Baltimore-based writer, book coach, and former high school English teacher. Her newsletter, Real Quick, is a monthly glimpse into her writer life. Kerry is a Creative-in-Residence at The Baltimore Banner. This “vignette” was published in the current Delmarva Review, Volume 15.
The Review selects the most compelling original nonfiction, poetry, and short fiction from thousands of submissions during the year. The nonprofit literary journal is designed to encourage fine writing from authors everywhere. Over forty percent are from the Delmarva and Chesapeake region. The book is available from Amazon.com and other major booksellers. Support comes from tax-deductible contributions and a grant from Talbot Arts with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org