August 8, 2003

Song 6

I sit at a school desk outside a bar, thinking about my prayer. You’ve gone inside the bar to pee. Across the street, perched above another bar, is a giant neon sign shaped like a cigarette. The red tip flashes on and off as though someone, a giant, were smoking.

A man walks by I immediately recognize. He sells belts and assorted junk at the corner of South 5th and Marcy. Maybe you’ve seen him. He’s skinny and Asian and lays out his merchandise on a white canvas laundry bag, the kind with a drawstring. I can’t imagine he’s ever made a sale: his belts are ugly and he is insane.

I never told you about my prayer. Basically I talked to myself out loud and explained what was happening, which was that there was something I wanted so much I was willing to pray for it, despite having no one and nothing to pray to. This was part of the prayer. The idea was to be as honest as possible. I said that it felt wrong to be praying for what amounted to a personal favor and that I therefore saw no reason it should granted. I said that the thing I wanted had to come of its own and not through some magical manipulation of reality. I was on my knees as I said these things, kneeling near the end of my bed, and had my hands joined in an approximation of hands joined in prayer. I said that instead of having my desire granted, a better thing to ask for, a better thing to be given, was what I called joy but what I really meant as wisdom in the face of loss.

The sixth song is beautiful. He never quite says what he means and yet you understand what he’s saying.