On Prayer

Luisa Muradyan

I can’t prove it, but my father invented the
That’s What She Said joke.

His first documented use was during
our naturalization ceremony, mixing up
the she and said in his broken English
but still making the judge laugh
when he asked my father
if he was ready for something so big
as citizenship.

Another instance was when a teacher
told my father that I was too different
and not quite fitting in.

Or when a wealthy family
complained that the pizza
he had delivered in the rain
just wasn’t hot enough.

A trick my rabbi taught me
is that when you receive bad news
pretend the sender is a popular
television character.

Michael Scott adjusts his tie
and takes a sip out of his “World’s
Best Boss Mug.” We stare at each other
a long time. This is the episode where
he doesn’t want to be the first to talk,
Michael Scott hates to disappoint people.

Finally, he tells me that my father
has cancer. He tells me, This is the worst,
he offers me a hug and I hold back tears
before staring directly into the camera.

In this office, I don’t know what else to say
turning toward Michael Scott,
in his white coat, I mumble
Grief is just really hard

and he whispers back softly
as if he is reciting a prayer
That’s what she said.

Luisa Muradyan is originally from the Ukraine and holds a PhD in poetry from the University of Houston where she was the recipient of an Inprint Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones Fellowship and a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dissertation Fellowship. She is the author of American Radiance (University of Nebraska Press) and was the editor-in-chief of Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts from 2016 through 2018. She was also the recipient of the 2017 Prairie Schooner Book Prize and the 2016 Donald Barthelme Prize in Poetry. Additionally, Muradyan is a member of the Cheburashka Collective, a group of women and nonbinary writers from the former Soviet Union. Previous poems have appeared in Poetry International, the Los Angeles Review, West Branch, Blackbird, and Ninth Letter among others.