you know my needs

One Sunday evening in the winter of 2013, I was walking through downtown Durham when I found a box labeled “prayer requests” sitting on a window sill outside a bank. Inside the box were hundreds of snippets of paper, prayers collected 12 years prior at a local church on the city’s east side. 

I have no idea how this box of prayers wound up where it did. Yet I seemed destined to find it, as I was headed to a protest but had the wrong address.

The prayers were so earnest and modest, asking for the most basic of human needs. I hope they were granted.

Inspired by the image of Tibetan prayer wheels, I assembled the scraps on canisters, so they can be turned and read.

 

My marriage
My mom
with stomach cancer

Cannot talk
Father stop
verbal abuse to family

Children car
Kidneys gout
Hair scalp shin
Bladder legs
Depression

Lord please give me
my drivers license back
Lord I need
a permanent ride
A job

 

Terry
Mary
Michael

five years in prison
Billy
life in prison

Bless Tony
Bless James
as he is in war
Bless me
with a husband

Betty
Willie
Please bring my sister 
Tiffany home safely
My son

having problems
with him
My son return

to Christianity
Healing from drugs
and alcohol

Pray for everyone
Homeless and
the whole world

God you know my needs

prayer-req-lord-needs-2-2

4 poems assembled from the Indiana Board of Health annual report, 1877

I. UNTITLED
The general health of the inmates for the year was good,
the death of twin babes being the only ones recorded.

II. A HOME FOR UNFORTUNATES
Found one weak-minded girl,
about four years old
tied to a rope on the porch.
She is quite shy and timid.
On her head were nests of vermin.

One insane woman had set fire to the institution,
removed some iron bars from the window
of her room in the basement
and then escaped.
She is now chained to the floor.

Maternity
the greatest privilege,
destiny of woman
is illy borne by them.
They may give birth to one child,
seldom more.
Then for the remainder of life
comes invalidism
and the gynecologist.

III. THE DRY CLOSET SYSTEM OF DISPOSING OF EXCREMENT
And so foul is the odor
that issues therefrom
that the stoutest stomach
will rebel against him.

Who has the temerity
to lift the plank that covers it
and look in?

Instead of hiding away
in pits and sinks
or slushing miles of filth
The Giant is to be strangled
in its cradle
by the constant watchfulness
of draft
and evaporation.

IV. FROM NOVEMBER TO MARCH
Without restriction
all dead bodies may be transported
except:
those who die of
diphtheria
scarlet fever
typhoid fever
erysipelas
measles.

Those bodies must be wrapped in a sheet
thoroughly saturated  with
a solution of chloride
of zinc
encased in an antiseptic
interment sack,
hermetically sealed in
a coffin
which must be enclosed
in  a tight wooden box.

Under all circumstances
the funeral should be strictly private
a public one  should never be tolerated.