LIKE A PRAYER (5:50)
by Brian Oliu
If we are being honest, it is hard to be silent—our voices hollow as our words, our starts and stops, our forming of perfect sentences in between thoughts of sin, of lust, of pulling the hair of the girl in front of you, of seeing someone you shouldn’t see naked naked. The true mystery here is that of listening: of the noise of too many pleas, of automated systems that categorize, color-code, sort by importance. If I ask for a late goal what does it mean for the rest of us—names washed over and rubbed to smoothness, the roundedness of what was once square.
My grandmother would tell me, "he who sings prays twice" and I believed her—to make my voice echo would make things happen: there would be vanilla waiting for me, that skin could be wished back to health, that one day I wouldn’t need a blessing. The notes would be perfect, crystalline as a god’s work, as smooth as something that has never felt the terribleness of a ridge, has never had a piece of sandpaper graze palm, has never felt the sudden slip of chalk on granite, has never scraped anything a day in their life: as to scrape is to believe that there is something underneath everything—that all things do not come from within but from above; that there is rain in the clouds and it does not get there from here—it appears divinely in the form of last gasps, that we received these things before we knew how to pray, before we knew that the soil needed to be wet so that we would not starve.
My grandmother cannot sing. They would laugh at her accent, they would blush as she cleared her throat to hit a note that she could not hit—that her prayers get lost on the wind. This is sinful, I know—I am unjust in my speaking, this is the reason that I will never leave here in one piece: that I will be left behind with nothing to question and nothing to show for it. Here, this here, is a confession. Here, is me coming as close to prayer as I possibly can get, forgive me someone for I have somethinged and I have changed as a result of it, I have smiled in the face of grief, that when I think of people suffering I think of myself suffering even worse: what I would do in their shoes and yet I am barefoot, always, my feet scrape the wooden floors and pick up pieces of dust, of lint left over from my living, that I am not interested beyond self, that when terrible things happen I picture myself running back to you and saving you not because you need to be saved but I need to be recognized for being a savior, that I sing so I have the most beautiful voice in the whole world, that when I sing it is like praying three times, four times, and those extra dreams mean that the ball will find the back of the net, that we will be naked, that maybe this means that despite my faults and the faults I signed your name to, we can all start somewhere with no mystery.
Oliu | 7
This is a piece that is part of a larger project where I am writing about various pop songs--I throw dance parties on occasion & thus have found myself listening to a lot of upbeat pop music. Of course, we familiarize ourselves with the choruses of these songs: we sing along, we have a great time. However, a lot of times there is lyricism in the mundane that slips by us when we are busy dancing or chanting. I wanted to explore the sadness of these songs & truly dissect them through the filter of memoir. This particular piece came from a quote my grandmother told me: he who sings, prays twice. This idea that singing is like praying is fascinating to me; not to mention prayer is extremely difficult--I would find myself in church as a child in a conversation with God, but I would keep getting distracted & thinking about other things. Therefore, the only thing that truly exists is not prayer, but things that are 'like prayers,' proving once & for all that Madonna is our greatest leading theologian.