Originally published in Willow Springs 71

From the author

Notes on “Night Prayer of a Woman Living Alone”

“Night Prayer”; is an embarrassingly accurate representation of my daily prayers. A little whiny and ambivalent, a little bitter and pitiful. A swear or two and a few genie wishes thrown in there. I definitely struggle with fear and fear of fear;and that tends to perpetuate a lingering frustration and exhaustion with oneself. But if you can’t talk to a big, merciful God about those things, well that’s even more stressful. I don’t know when I started praying a lot of irreverently reverent prayers, to borrow a phrase from Anne Lamott. But I think it’s important to make a practice of trying to be honest with Something or Someone, even when you’re not entirely sure what that means and even when you’re not entirely convinced by this thing you’re calling honesty.

There’s this secret pride for women living alone “a quiet feeling of accomplishment that” we can tough it on our “in ways our married and shacked-up friends don’t/can’t/won’t” but yeah, it’s crap. We hate our jobs. We want to live in different cities, different apartments. We’re tired as hell from trying to impress everybody, ourselves most of all. We want a dog, but we don’t want to vacuum all the dog hair. We fantasize about having someone fold our laundry because they adore us. We want people to like us, we want to be cool but we know we’re not and that’s kind of heartbreaking. We doubt every decision we make. We crave alone time and we hate alone time. And (this one’s the worst), we can’t help but wonder sometimes if everything would be different if we were men.

The sandwiches take up a lot of room in this poem (about a quarter?). That’s probably way too much space to give sandwiches.

Notes on Reading

For about a year now, I have been trying to give myself permission to read only for pleasure. That has meant a big break from poetry, excepting only a couple of books (Mary Oliver’s selected, Rilke’s Book of Hours, and Eliot’s Four Quartets. I had been feeling really burned out and needed to take some space in order to remember what made me fall in love with poems in the first place. When you forget why you’re doing what you’re doing, you get really resentful and pissed off, and eventually you stop being productive (which makes you even more resentful and pissed off). So this year I’ve been reading some amazing novels: Justin Torres’s We The Animals, Julian Barnes’s The Sense of An Ending, Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang, Herman Koch’s The Dinner, and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad to name a few. (It’s worth mentioning, though, that there was one thing I read this year that made me remember why I love poems, I had to stop and cause a weepy, pitiful scene in a bookstore and that was Tony Hoagland’s “There Is No Word.”

For every one thing we read because we feel we "have to," we should probably read two things for fun. That works both ways, though for every two things we read for fun, we should probably bite the bullet and read something bland or dense because we “have to” something that will help us grow or see the world in a new way. Unless we’ve had that equation wrong for a while. In which case we should take a break from poetry and read a lot of People magazine and breathe and get our joy back.

About Meggie Monahan

Meggie Monahan studied poetry at the University of Houston, where she served as nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets 2012, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, Sonora Review, Cimarron Review, Ruminate, and elsewhere. Meggie lives and works in Houston. Her apartment is covered in the ugliest wallpaper you’ve ever seen.