December 13, 2021

A.D. Lauren-Abunassar

ABANDONED SESTINA

I found God in an abandoned laundromat.
I carved the history of coldness on the cold
linoleum floors. Wanted to crawl in the washer.

I said a prayer about the history of laundromats.
The way, when I pray in daylight, God feels cold
and I feel like an unwanted daughter. I wash

my eyes with the history of God showing up uninvited
in dreams. Telling me I taught you better in a cold
and God-like voice. Me: crawling into that reprimand.

I cry for the ways I’ve never heard anything from God
firsthand. Always had words passed down, God floating
like a left-behind sock in a washer. I told my aunt once,

I don’t want God to see me in the shower. My aunt said
God will know when to see, and: that’s
blasphemous and you’re going to hell. I told God, later:

I feel like an abandoned laundromat. Something
that can never clean or be cleaned again. God said
nothing but the next day, I learned the neighbor’s daughter

had died after swallowing detergent. I crawled
inside my grief and it felt like a laundromat. Abandoned.
I carved out the history of daughters in my dreams and God

did not show up to stop me. I found this telling
but not telling enough to stop dreaming. Last year,
I made a list of all of the laundromats in a fifty mile

radius. My father said: what’s with all the laundromats?
I said: what’s with the desire to find God, to crawl inside God,
to feel God the way I always feel cold but can never fix it.

In other words: I avoided the question. Last night,
I dreamt I rode my bike to the second laundromat
on my list. I sat on the floor, and wondered about the difference

between being dead and being abandoned. I said,
God: have you ever been abandoned? And I knew
this was a stupid question. I searched the floors

for some carved-out history. I prayed to the God
of cold linoleum and wondered if that God
was the same as my God and thought:

that’s blasphemous and you’re going to hell. I saw
an angel beneath the detergent dispenser and asked
why sometimes, it hurts so much to believe in something.

She said that’s history, and then crawled in the nearest
washer. When I woke up, it was time for the funeral.
I cleaned my shoes and avoided questions and wondered

if God avoided questions for the same reason I did:
they hurt. I imagined the history of churches
and how unclean they must be. I wondered

what sermons would sound like in laundromats. Eulogies.
In the graveyard, a cold front delayed the grave
digging and I pretended: she’s not dead yet, not dead yet.

I noticed a little girl abandoned on a nearby bench.
Her buttons looked like angels, her hands looked like angels,
her grief: angels. I thought, God knows when to see. I prayed I did also.

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

__________

A.D. Lauren-Abunassar: “I remember reading, in a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem (quoting Cocteau), ‘I feel there is an angel in me whom I am constantly shocking,’ and thinking yes, that. I like the idea of angels the same way I like the idea of poems. Not so much for what they can save, what they can watch over, what they can protect. But more so for how they are expected to react. Tangential enough to holiness they might still misbehave but unearthly enough they embody an uncertainty I live inside and both seek comfort from and in. I’m not totally sure where the laundromats came from in this poem or even why there is so much of God. But I know there are angels in this poem because I wanted to have something/one who was listening. And I think that’s why I’m writing poetry as well: to listen.”

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