​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

Melina Papadopoulos is a recent college graduate. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Plume, Booth, and The Monarch Review, among others.

B Y   M E L I N A   P A P A D O P O L O U S

P R A Y E R   B O O K   S E S T I N A


​​Today, I break bread with hands that have never broken bread.
Around my wrist, rosary beads: I know never to wear
them around my neck. Some sacrifices you witness with your hands,
prayer cold between your fingers. The first thing I learned
about my hands: I must keep them to myself--
fold them in my lap, wrap them in web, disappear them into the earth

and let them emerge made from clay. Once, I dreamed that Earth
began in my palms wet with bathwater, ended with bread
crumb trails leading from my fingertips. I wrapped myself
in sky that flaked pink at the horizon. I watched red seas wear
like chapped lips. Before I awakened, I realized that I never learned
the words skin or amen or softened prayer beds with my knees, only with my hands.

Today, I remember all the times I dirtied my hands:
First, on the back patio, knee-deep in soil, begging the earth
to deliver violets from daffodil seeds. Second: I learned
that grasshoppers spit on Sunday dresses.  Third: communion bread
sweaty in my clenched fist. Today, I still wear
a birthmark on my knuckle, brown as dirtied pearl. I’ll forgive myself

for my imperfections after I am reborn. I’ll rebirth myself
starting with the shadow of my navel, ending with the cupping of my hands.
Nobody reshape me. Nobody spin me from abandoned web. Let me wear
the nightgown that switchblades my shadow. Let me choose the earth
to be braided into my hair. Let me crave nothing but bread
and daffodil petals, prayer fallen through templed fingers. All I’ve learned

from this body is that it breaks without breaking. All I’ve learned
from this body is how to hide inside it: expose myself
collarbone first, an empty shelf of limestone. The bread
I’ve broken, the new white of my marrow. My hands
still cold from sister’s baptism water. In my arms, I gather enough earth
to fill a cradle. From the small of my back, I shed skin I can’t wear

without a camisole of sun. Sometimes I forget what gardens wear
once I have stolen their reds for incense. In first grade, I learned
my first flower with a proper name: Black-Eyed Susan, earth
bound by her cyclopean gaze. Without an appetite, I trade myself
for her hunger, frail and speechless. I offer her hands
that can reach for globs of honey parsed from her nectar, stale bread

left in the rain for ducks. Today, I hear myself
in somebody else’s voice: a throat cleared, a prayer unlearned.
I feel for my skin in darkness: broken body, risen bread.