“I Only Pray on Instagram,” a Poem by Kara Lewis

where my high school best friend piles tithed hearts
in the pixelated hallow of her hands. She ascends
offerings — flat tummy tea, knee-length modesty, steamed
broccoli: See what makes me holy. Who hasn’t starved
for salvation? When she writes, Today, I have been bad,
and divulges a half-eaten donut, I savor our youth
group, where we scribbled sins on slips of paper, sacrificed
them to the pyre. But when I crept closer, I claimed
my flame-licked indiscretion for myself. I devoured it
like a candy wrapper listing all the calories:
Let a boy remove my bra in the backseat: 20. Got fingered
in the church parking lot: 50. Said God is a woman
when I discovered my satin thong as sanctuary:
Blasphemy. Infinity. What would she say if she knew
I only find the praise hand emoji when I stand at the altar
of a group text, offering a concert or a kiss?
What psalm would she sing if she knew my last sermon
was a karaoke sleepover? We lifted pore strips to the light,
mesmerized by how the congealed gunk shined. We prayed
to the Robert Pattinson poster on the ceiling for a heaven
with no more pimples, where we would be beautiful
and vampiric. When a plague of blackheads bursts
across my chest, I confess, Katie, I am stranded
in a purgatory of Proactiv and paperback erotica.
Dare: I sold my Bible at Half Priced Books for five bucks
to gamble on if god would still save me.
Truth: When I said my high school boyfriend was Christ incarnate
because he played bongos, wore no shoes, and had long hair,
I didn’t mean it, you know. I just craved a boy who looked like stained glass
to love me until I shattered        
                                            like when the screen slices my finger.
                                    like when I try to type forgiven and it autofills to forget.
At movies, I ask my lover if he would die for me
and search for Jesus in his kiss. When was the last time you tasted amen?

Kara Lewis is a poet, editor, and writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. Her poems have appeared in SWWIM Every Day, Plainsongs, Stirring, Sprung Formal, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of the John Mark Eberhart Memorial Award for a collection of poetry, as well as a weekly blogger for Read Poetry. Her work will be anthologized in the upcoming Aunt Flo project. You can follow her on Twitter @kararaywrites.

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