This Servant of God Does Not Have a Mind at Peace by Brianna Noll

Sometimes I wonder if the unquiet
mind is itself a miracle, a flintwheel
spinning an impending, abundant spark,
its fiery possibility a motivating terror.
When you are born wet, this fear
has little power. And then you dry.
Don’t rehearse tragedy, the sisters
tell me, but it seems my thoughts
have too much power. I’ve set myself
on a path that ends either in glory
or in nothing, and nothing is worse
than damnation. Like a medieval
mystic I am campaigning for my own
sainthood, but I’m a millennial woman,
Lord, a perfectionist who cannot rise
to her own standard. When I close
my eyes I see women gifted impossible
feats, their corporeal bodies surpassing
the limits of the flesh to become something
like pure spirit, so no wonder their births
were announced by the chime of God’s silver
rattle, and I see that, like so much else,
this is not a meritocracy. I’ve become
instead a skilled interpreter
of the ambient room, fashioning
a narrative of shame to people its spaces
and flood its corners with a revelatory
light, and I inhabit that imagined space,
alone and not alone. The sisters also tell me
to stop minimizing myself, so I’m trying
to see the good, the divinity, in overthinking
my flaws and my regrets, and perhaps
they have a point because I’m sure
if I worried just right I would become
immense, swelled by fear and flame, a force
self-fulfilled and staggering as if
I’d learned, at last, my own ineffable name.
Brianna Noll is the author of The Era of Discontent, forthcoming from Elixir Press in 2021, and The Price of Scarlet (University Press of Kentucky, 2017), which was named one of the top poetry books of 2017 by the Chicago Review of Books. She is poetry editor of The Account, which she helped found, and her poems and translations have appeared widely in journals, including the Kenyon Review Online, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse, and Waxwing. She lives in Los Angeles.