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.
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
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.
the greatest privilege,
destiny of woman
is illy borne by them.
They may give birth to one child,
Then for the remainder of life
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
IV. FROM NOVEMBER TO MARCH
all dead bodies may be transported
those who die of
Those bodies must be wrapped in a sheet
thoroughly saturated with
a solution of chloride
encased in an antiseptic
hermetically sealed in
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.