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 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 www.twitter.com/nakedvix or www.victoriarichards.co.uk
Featured photo credit: Amanda Ollinik @Allunderonemoon