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  • Writer's pictureCiara Bridges

To My People

As a young girl

Already more estranged and bent than I was willing to believe

I folded myself into the mold my parents made for me from their ribs

I resigned to the possibility of a beige foreverness

Learned my hymns, made them sound like my own name

I nested in the pews

Drinking in sermon like lifeblood

Letting it poison my spirit, as I should —

Quiet in my suffering.

I struck my pain from the record of God

He needn’t know this secret

And when we kneeled before Him

Foreheads touching the seat

Palms pressed into each other, hard, revenant

I dotted the cushions with my own holy water

Let it fall from mine eyes

And with them, as if in tandem, came the scales

I slowly purified, obsessed with detox.

As I unfurled myself, slowly, I felt the colors before I saw them

Deep-seated in my belly, they tried to burst through my ears

And I could hear my people laughing at inside jokes

Although I couldn’t yet speak the language, I knew the cadence

That I was meant to be here with them


As I neared salvation

I began to hear the birds

A building roar, cacophonous in my bones

And the scream was beautiful and sacred and calming

Slowly I learned to speak

Testing my new tongue, finding my people in the crowd

And we whispered to one another to make us feel safe.

We were not alone, because our holy stood with us.


As I stand inside a dark and crowded room

With strangers who all fit inside the same skin, and make it their own

I can see them speak, and I am fluent

Finding my own, much younger, and teaching them what voice we use —

Sometimes we whisper

And other times, we are throwing our lungs to the ceiling in hopes that they’ll stick

We are bastardized from society

The hue of our brains is supposedly wrong but I can’t tell

Because mine is as well.

We are a ruckus

Crashing into rocks

Our own holy water slipping down our throats

On a Saturday while the day is still sleeping

We turn into pillars of salt

We become one being

We queer ourselves into and out of the dance floor, the clubs, each other

We let our tongues speak for themselves

And here, we go to church.

Edited by: Ava Emilione

Cover Photo Credit: Ciara Bridges

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