… and I wasn’t there.  I was in New Orleans on my birthday.  The day my sons were born.  And maybe I should have made a wish.  A different wish.  To the candles burning.  To the candle I lit.  For I was in church.  A catholic church—the St. Louis Cathedral—the day before that extra day of 1948, the day before Marie Toussaint gave birth to my sons in Hemphill, reciting her own prayers, her own incantations…  What led me there I don’t know.  I don’t know what leads us, what led me on that walk through Jackson Square among the artists, what led me to enter that door of an old church, what spoke to me in that darkened oratory leading me to kneel, kneel before those votive candles and a statue of the Virgin Mary.  I’m not catholic.  I’m not really a Christian or anything else, more just a student, a pupil of history—that history of God—remembering from my own past the prayers I was taught.  The prayers my mother taught me.  What I imitated.  All religions, all faiths—to me just that, imitations, imitations of finding our own way when we feel nothing else leads us…  But I was led that day, and that is what I will call God, what was original in that walk which led me to kneel before those candles.  What led me to pray.  Not as I’d been taught, but some other word, some other voice.  It was something being born without the knowledge of death.  This what led me to kneel and light a candle.  And as I lit one another blew out.  Maybe it was my breath.  Or the wick burned low in the melted wax—I don’t know—it could have been the door opening behind me—someone else coming in to pray, that wind from the outside.  All I know is as I lit one candle another stopped burning, and this is what led me to pray.  It gave me my words and not just an imitation of what I already knew, not some memorization—it was not my knowledge which gave me my words.  And I saw it as a sign.  How it was all connected somehow.  A candle lit and a candle going out.  I saw how my knowledge was not in the light of a candle being lit, but in a candle burning out.  And I knew.  I knew what I was praying to.  I knew my song…  And so I write this knowing why I write this.  Just as someone reading knows why they read.  It was a birthday and nothing else.  It was a day of remembering how I was born, a looking forward to that extra day to follow and my sons being born—a day of both hope and abandonment.  Both together.  Giving their words to each other so that you may read them.  So that I may read them in that strange coming back to my own prayers.  What is written down only a remnant, and what leads others to read my words also a remnant—a remnant of a prayer—a speaking to God where the silence is answered in reading those first few lines and then reading few more.  A book opening only to be closed.  But you have that.  You have that book being opened, and therein lies your pupillary—that history of letting the light in and then constricting it to what your faith wants to believe—therein lies your God…  And then also maybe no one will read this.  I can’t make them.  I can’t make them read what I’ve written.  Just as there can be music with no listener.  Why I came back.  Why I returned to New Orleans so soon before the birth of my sons to have what I had recorded redistributed, loose ends, a matter of business in my financial dealings with Piety Street—those first recordings I had made.  I was not there for them being born because I wanted people to keep listening.  Keep listening to my music.  Maybe that’s why I kneeled before those votive candles.  Why when I lit one another went out.  For in my want to be heard I was not heard.  And if someone listened it was not of my own doing.  It was a wind, a wind from the outside, and a candle going out…  And so maybe my prayer was my judgment.  In what I already knew, the knowledge of my firstborn.  Maybe even why I wasn’t there.  I wasn’t there for his birth.  And when I received word, when I crossed the Sabine River on that first day of March, 1948 I was already done mourning my own words, a candle lit forgotten, and I just wanted to hold them.  I wanted to hold my children in my arms…

            –David Threnody, on prayer—from his journals 1948 to 1955

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