Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

A Breviary for the Liturgy of Leroy Street

by Dante Di Stefano


Learn how to pray in the dirtiest street,

the boulevard with the closed carpet store

where mattresses lean on telephone poles

and wooden spools serve as picnic tables.

Learn how to pray outside at two o’clock

in the afternoon when the sidewalks teem

with no pedestrian except the ants

that stream from lawnless apartment house yards.


Make your tongue a temple bell that rings

for the lonely and the unsatisfied,

for those bound to the opposite of song,

for those who wander the aisles of Walmart,

for those who prefer Target and Sam’s Club,

for those whose bath soap has hair stuck in it,

for those who sip vanilla soy lattes

at Starbucks, for those who go to the black

light eighties nights at Applebees, who drink

apple martinis, who watch NFL

games every weekend, and who dream touchdowns.

Learn how to pray in the dirtiest street

because the church is boarded up and you

are a broken wafer without barcode;

You are a chorus singing Amazing Grace

to a crowd of teenagers whose earbuds

drown out how sweet the sound that saved a wretch

like me in the dirtiest street, which feels

like a monastery where all the monks

have taken a vow of deafness, a vow

to be like a fire that consumes itself

because it never turns outward. To pray

means learning to listen to one whisper

the wind makes when it whips through linden leaves

on a street that’s forgotten your last name.


Learn how to pray in the dirtiest street

because no immaculate pew will wrest back

holiness from the saints and bring it down

where it belongs, right here on Leroy Street,

among these ordinary ill angels

who drink warm beer on their porches and bitch

about how their wives stole their halos and sold

them, with their wings, for a few dollars,


plus postage, to the Vatican online.