Prayer book

When I was 12 I found a prayer book at a jumble sale
and bought it for the grand sum of 25p.

It had daffodils on the front – a cheery bunch of yellow flowers
and I remember thinking, yellow flowers can only be good

they always make people happy.
And I didn’t feel happy, not very often, not even at the age

of bike rides and cupcakes and sleepovers,
and whispered secrets and first crushes and midnight feasts.

So I tried it: kneeled that night, beside my bed,
and every night for a week

while my brother laughed and pointed,
my mother said with her voice like crushed velvet

she’s experimenting, leave her be.
And I felt shame, and a wrongness.

Years later I kneeled by a different bed
asking for forgiveness.

For mortality, for lies, for lust,
for living a Godless life

and they said – the people who’d found peace –
to turn it over, to surrender

but all I could think was, to who?
Because the truth is –

I didn’t find God in that jumble sale prayer book.
Or in churches, or synagogues, or Shinto shrines,

or in the mouths of lovers, or sitting by the lake
watching swans drift past with the sun on my skin.

I didn’t find God, just flowers.



victoria_richardsVictoria Richards is a journalist and writer. In 2017/18 she was shortlisted in the Bath Novel Award and the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, was highly commended for poetry in the Bridport Prize and came third in The London Magazine Short Story Competition. She is one of three winning poets for Primers: Volume Four, with Nine Arches Press. Find her at or

Featured photo credit: Amanda Ollinik @Allunderonemoon