The Convert Desires Her Way Into a First Prayer



Her mother’s first lesson

was chew your wants and spit


the pulp, grow skinny feeding

everyone else your flesh.


A heart’s cargo is sometimes oil,

sometimes crude. A spill can undo


the waterproof of any surface.

And still the diving birds must feed,


must point their beaks past the slick

that seals the cornea to eternal blur.


Does the Lord ask her what she wants

when he already knows its name?


Does he play these games to make her

ignorant tongue collapse?


A spill will always take a shape, a floating

map of damage. In the clean-up,


particles separate from the main

and cast out into fish


bellies and clam adductors.

What do you want me to do for you,


He asks. Her cargo is not

contaminate. Her answers clear water.


I want to see. I want to walk.

I want my skin unfestered.


Let me oil. Let me wash.

Let me want with a full throat


even of hopeless warbling.

Let You do nothing about any of it.


Let each desire form in this mouth

whose teeth You have taken from me.

The Convert Learns to Play Hide and Seek



The convert hid within her grandfather’s

restaurant while her cousin hunted,

while their mothers fried in oil and sweet


and sour. When the convert’s parents

laid eyes on her they said, daughter, daughter.

They never played this game with her


because from daughter there is no hiding.

When the Lord walked in the garden calling

the pair from the trees, a game began.


Now the convert strains to find Him, fingering

her ripped places, stalking Him out of His

relentless camouflage.


The theologian says there is no faith

without separation. A ship will sink under

its own lighthouse.


The convert’s daughter is hiding from her.

The girl knows being found is the part

you wait for, but is not the best part.


Tucked behind the restaurant’s lard buckets,

the convert hears the boy flushing

the usual traps and dark passages.


She enters a country where she thinks

she can live. The writer says waiting is

etymologically related to vigor, to vigilance.


The convert seeks with bellows and stomps.

Her daughter’s laughs reveal her place every time.

Who can keep from saying here I am?









The Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich and Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris

Melody S. Gee was born in Taiwan and raised in Cerritos, California. Her first poetry collection, Each Crumbling House (2010), won the Perugia Press Book Prize. Her second collection, The Dead in Daylight (2016), is available from Cooper Dillon Books, and was a finalist for the 2016 Jacar Press Julie Suk Award. Her poems and essays most recently appear in The Los Angeles Review, Meridian, Barnstorm Literary Journal, Spillway, The Book of Scented Things Anthology, and others. Her awards include two Pushcart Prize nominations, a Best New Poets nomination, the Robert Watson Literary Prize, and a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat fellowship. Currently, she teaches developmental writing at St. Louis Community College, and lives with her husband and daughters in Saint Louis, MO.