Hayley Brooks

Room for the Holy Spirit

I took the late train into the city
on a Friday. I am still learning to
say no. I want my expression to
speak for me, but I am young
and female and that is usually
translated as an invitation. If I
had said no, I might’ve tried the
boldness of expanding, spread
my legs and watch him shrink.
Instead I whispered sure,
curled my regret into a quiet sigh.

I have known this swell before,
in a cathedral built in the
name of a male God,
in his voyeurism replacing every mirror.
He asked me why I was headed
to Chicago. I said to visit
my girlfriend.

His shock hung from his mouth for
a while. Then, his comments how is a girl like
you a lesbian? have you ever even tried to
be attracted to a man? ballooned between

I know where on my body his eyes
landed each time they moved.
He asked if when I say girlfriend,
I am with her, like physically?
I tipped the glow of my phone
away from him as I texted her,
thought about catching her
eyes, what wholeness lies there.

He told me, you can’t get offended at
what I’m about to say. And I am back at the
cathedral, swallowed. He said,
you really shouldn’t be with a woman.

I try to breathe a sigh so loud
it pushes him off the seat. I imagine
her head on my lap, stroking her hair,
her hand trailing my thigh.

I went to prom with a boy.
I wept to the girl I loved
that I didn’t have a date
and he asked me a few days later.
He tried to slow dance with me and
I scanned the room, looking at the girls
pressed up against the boys and
wondered if the room was getting bigger,
if I had been emptied.

I apologized the first time a girl kissed
me. She said let’s try it again. And I
bloomed, my fullness abounded.
It was God, I knew, awakening in my body.

I used to keep a stock
of male names to answer sleepover
questions. I feigned a pavilion of
nerves, prayed for a different body
at the altar erected
in yahweh's name at asherah's expense.
I maimed everything holy
in me for patriarchy.

I kissed a girl.
Until that sanctity between mouths
rebuilt asherah's altar,
until I could
beam my fullness outward.

Hayley Brooks received her B.A. summa cum laude in English writing from Goshen College in May 2015 and has published a chapbook of poetry, Becoming Hallowed, through PinchPenny Press. She writes regularly for Outspoken, the blog of the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests and has been published on The Mennonite's website. She is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.