Prayer Flags

The Christian Ventures committee at my church organized a lovely all-church project this spring: prayer flags. For several weeks during Lent, members were able to write and draw on brightly-colored squares of cloth, which the committee members sewed into six strands of prayers and hung up for Palm Sunday.

They are gorgeous.

This is how they looked on Palm Sunday, with the magnolias all in bloom.My office window is just behind that bench, and it's been wonderful to see the flags blow in the wind, and to watch people stop and marvel beneath them.A thunderstorm knocked one of the strands down earlier this week, which gave me a chance to take a few close-ups.One of the intercessions requests "slow squirrels for my dog." It's just about everybody's favorite flag.

I think there is something deeply blessed about playing in the dirt beneath the shadow of a hundred prayers.I thought I'd lost all my copies, digital and otherwise, of Prayer Flags, a poem I wrote in 2003. I found it tonight.

In Provincetown, the flags stay up
through the June rains: strung like laundry
across narrow roads. We walk underneath
the colors, point out the countries we recognize.

Maj says that all flags are prayer flags.
I usually believe what he says. I do want the wind
to lift prayers from these drenched banners,
but only if the wind is blind to their spangled loyalties.

Some months later, Ben and I buy a quilt
patterned with flags. Their colors are inverted,
rendered unrecognizable. I dream well under the weight
of orange crescent moons, greens stripes, pink stars.

The wind doesn’t reach this quilt; its prayers go unnoticed.
Soon, I’ll wash it, hang it on the clothesline to dry,
wait for the wind to clutch and shake the dormant flags.
Their prayers will scatter: brilliant, haphazard, loving.


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