On Bended Knee by Maria Mankin



This poem from A Child Laughs: Prayers of Justice and Hope (Pilgrim Press, 2017) is unfortunately just as needed this week as when it was written.

God, I’ve always shied away from teams, from labeling myself
with a number or a brightly colored jersey, on the field or in the stands.
You know I hid from Friday night lights, from the face painting and friendly rivalries
of high school football, how “sick” I was the day of tennis tryouts –
sick of having to pretend I cared at all about the cheering and camaraderie
of sweat bound sisters and brothers.

You know me, God. You know I’ve cherished a few stolen moments of athleticism –
grindingly slow and solitary runs, inflexible yogic moments of peace –
all on my own, all in service to my own body, my own spirit.
No one to high five but my own reflection, no one to cheer me on
but a whispered prayer that pushed me a bit further.

And yet, God, I find myself wanting to take a knee.
I ache to stand among my black brothers on the field,
to lend a little of the privilege of this skin to their cause,
aware it costs me nothing. History will paint people
like me heroes without question, sheltering us from spit and rage
and the crippling danger of being born with dark skin,
while my struggling brothers risk everything to be heard and seen
without prejudice. They will kneel in the dirt and endure
the consequences of their bravery, as they have for hundreds of years.

I may not fit on a team, God, I may not know that holy solidarity,
but I can’t imagine standing while one of my sister’s knelt in the dirt –
not after days or months or years of working and celebrating beside her.
The chance to kneel, to pray, to beseech others to examine their privilege
seems like such a small gesture of love – the right to such protest a divine gift,
a hail Mary for a country that has been bent under by the victors of hate.

God, I ask that you kneel within each of us who stands by as these men risk
their livelihoods and their lives to bear silent, gracious witness to the truth.
I ask for a place on their team, a sign I might raise in solidarity, a cheer for equality
that I may hold in my heart and sing forth
in honor of their fearless faith and play for justice.

I ask this in the name of your redeeming spirit,
which is never blind to small signs of change

or deaf to voices that speak hope and power in places we don’t expect them.

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2 Responses to On Bended Knee by Maria Mankin

  1. Stephen Price says:

    This is incredible. Thank you for posting today

  2. Maren says:

    We should all take a knee.

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