Sylvan Lebrun


how do you make it to sixteen and still believe in god
see the gash and see the blade that caused it and believe that the blade is guided by
the same hand that is giving water to a traveler
and believe that the gash is not to be blamed on one who wielded the blade, but to
be blamed on the one who received it
receivers of hurt should not apologize for their hurting (scripture 1)

how do you make it to sixteen and still believe in god
believe that you rise above the heretics who chose another story
believe that your bad deeds outweigh the good deeds of those who do not fall to
their knees
one’s worth is not dictated by who they look up to, but why (scripture 2)

I lost my faith when I renounced myself
as I was called to witness and was praised for how well the damning words spilled
from my young mouth
and I only realized I lost it when breaking unwritten rules did not feel like a mistake
when two rose-painted lips met in unforgivable prayer
no guilt sunk in my chest, only euphoria above my head I was dizzy
who I am is not for my ancestors to decide (scripture 3)

there is a difference between blood and sinew
forgotten songs run in my blood, but they cannot carve themselves through my
tissue without my permission
when we are young, we often begin to mark ourselves blindly, flay ourselves over
the sky
but then we halt
how do you make it to sixteen and continue to slice away
make only choices that can be reversed (scripture 4)

what do you think of me
you tireless laborer down the path to the heavens
I suppose you would hate me if you knew my heart
but who am I to say what words are on your sinew?
they can be revised
so can mine
kiss me and I will learn how to pray (scripture 5)

Sylvan Lebrun is a student, poet, and musician living in Tokyo, Japan. She likes to write poems about constellations, solid right hooks, and Sappho. Her work has been previously published in Crab Fat Magazine. [Note by the author, August 2020: This is a poem that I wrote and published at age fifteen, and it represents a mindset regarding religion that I do not identify with anymore. Growing up as a lesbian in a conservative Jewish congregation, there was a time where I felt alienated completely from the “god” I refer to in the poem. The Torah portion I was given to read at my bat mitzvah, Acharei Mot, was the one labeling homosexuality as a sin. This, among other things, mistakenly led me to believe that there was no way that faith and self-acceptance could coexist. Now I know otherwise. A single rigid interpretation of scripture has no right to cut me off from my heritage. LGBT+ people have been carving out their place in religious communities since before I was born, championing what is best in religion and in human nature — justice, compassion and love above all. That is an act of bravery and creation that I’m happy to be a part of today.]