Runner-Up for the Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets

Symbols Crash Under the Weight

At the age of seven, I believed God 
           to listen, my hands a corded phone

transfiguring prayers to voicemails. 
           One night I fell asleep without

ending the call with the sign of the cross.
           During my eight hours of silence,

wars were created & people begged 
           for help, but God couldn’t be found

because He was bent over
           an answering machine, listening
                      to me breathe.

At Sunday school, Sister Mary reminds me
           selfish & Sonya both begin with “s.”

The hospital stacks voicemails
           on my phone like I, too, am god.

Stephanie, a nurse, Nick, a PA, then the doctor 
           himself reaches out—the holy trinity

of you have to translate to your father 
           that we found a tumor. He’s refusing to stay 

overnight & says he doesn’t understand. 
           Call us back. 

A boy I like teaches me to play
           the drums, his hands warm on mine 
                      when he tells me it’ll be okay. 

My bare foot keeps time hitting the bass 
           —it does not sound benign. 

Our drumsticks drown with uneven beats 
           that make him smile 

as the rest of the world floods.
           He hums a beat—bum bum bum pa 

bum bum bum pa bum bum bum pa 
           as we strike each communioned face 

for the distraction of rhythm. Listen— 
           bum bum bum pa bum bum bum pa 

bum bum bum pa—my phone rattles a heartbeat
           across the room. Try it again.

Sonya Lara received her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MFA in Poetry from Virginia Tech. Currently, she is the Poetry Editor for Minerva Rising. She was accepted for the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute, the Hambidge Creative Residency Program, and the Peter Bullough Foundation Residency and was shortlisted for the Eavan Boland Emerging Poet Award and runner-up in Shenandoah’s Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y Lit, Shenandoah, Ninth Letter, AGNI, the Los Angeles Review, the Acentos Review, and elsewhere.