Margaret Atwood

Half-Hanged Mary

Out of my mouth is coming, at some distance from me, a thin gnawing sound which you could confuse with prayer except that praying is not constrained. Or is it, Lord? Maybe it's more like being strangled than I once thought. Maybe it's a gasp for air, prayer. Did those men at Pentecost want flames to shoot out of their heads? Did they ask to be tossed on the ground, gabbling like holy poultry, eyeballs bulging? As mine are, as mine are. There is only one prayer; it is not the knees in the clean nightgown on the hooked rug. I want this, I want that Oh far beyond. Call it Please. Call it Mercy. Call it Not yet, not yet, as Heaven threatens to explode inwards in fire and shredded flesh, and the angels caw.

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