Katie Condon’s debut collection of poetry
was selected by Marcus Jackson as the winner of the Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize and will be published by Ohio State University Press in 2020.
If you’re interested in reviewing Praying Naked or booking an event on your campus, please contact Katie at katiecondon2 [at] gmail [dot] com.
I’ve never let a man love me
without feeling very Mary Magdalene about it.
Just the other night I was dancing with a friend
of a friend & he got handsy & I got servant-minded
letting him move his grip from my waist to my hips
& lower, while a Motown bass boomed through the opaque
& sweaty darkness. It wasn’t guilt I felt
when I decided I was obliged to let him
explore the finer points of my swaying
body. Maybe it was loneliness. Maybe
it was my own desire to be desired, since, if a man
wants me, I know I have at least a little worth left.
Or it’s payback for the hours I spent treating
every bead on the rosary as the Virgin Mary’s nipples,
pressing each one to my mouth
& murmuring her own prayer over them.
If I have offended the Lord
in my manner of worship, then the Lord
should not have made women so beautiful.
Look at us. Even when we are stripped
of our bodies—reduced to prayers & beads, shadows
the music rubs its hum against—even then
we are gorgeous. & even then we are unsure
of our worth. Lord, if you will not let me exist
without shame at least leave me while I whisper
over my blessed mother’s naked body
the words you said would save me.
originally published by Narrative Magazine.