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South Carolina Honors College

the inside of an empty church

By Sophie Turansky 

 black-red velvet pews, shadows cast from flashlights against the night.
i hesitate in this open-mouthed whale, hollowed-out carcass of a god,
and flick off my flashlight. kneeling feels more like a sin than anything
i’ve ever done, but i press my burning palms together and try: 

 here’s to the stained-glass windows, white savior, da vinci painting
over a dark past with his beautiful blue-eyed boy. 

here’s to the men on horses, frozen carved faces, little signs or guides screaming
do not touch! and it’s funny because i’m sure the marble would taste like salt and iron.

here’s to me in ninth grade, tentatively picking up my girl’s hand in the aquarium,
knowing that a different me, born before 2003, would shove my hands in my pockets, instead.  

here’s to my friend wearing pajamas to church on sundays, who is told
to never worship fake gods, so she stops loving her parents. 

here’s to my mom telling me to stop being disrespectful, to put my head down
for the Thanksgiving prayer, but i’m still thinking about genocide. 

i sing a quiet hymn, and listen to my voice vibrate through
the ribs of Him, arching wooden spine and tender open mouth, 
pink velvet flesh of a tongue that i stand on. i still know a few from
my grandma. my prayer ends in an apology. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.