Faith Rain Run

by Kelly O’Toole


Staring at the fire
in our living room,
that gives off no warmth,
but is a nice decoration
or distraction, I think
of my one and only women’s AA retreat,
where they met on the beach
to burn whatever sorrows
they wrote on paper.
I skipped it,
and instead walked to a convenient store
for M&Ms and a fashion magazine.
Alone in the dorm room,
I indulged in sugar
and pretty pictures, in my opinion,
a much better way to deal
with pain then letting go.
I think today
I’d willingly,
even maybe excitedly,
go to the burning
of past and present.

Presently, I’m watching church
from NJ live on Facebook—
the first service I’ve witnessed
in almost 9 months.
I also did my first Zoom AA meeting,
and fumbled with turning on
the video and mic, the seniors in attendance
better with technology than me.
My name was Galaxy
and some numbers,
until one of the old men messaged
me how to change it.
I didn’t even know
that everyone could see
me if I wasn’t the speaker,
until my friend said,
I can see you smiling,
I can see you eating
an apple. Duh, swipe left.
It was good,
I guess,
but not the same.
I didn’t leave feeling
happy or free.

I started running,
almost everyday, down this empty side street
with a Spielplatz. I run
there so I can sing
and go at my own slow pace
and see almost no one,
except for the man that walks
his black lab, that I am now on
a first name basis with.
In two short conversations,
I’ve learned
a lot, as I’m always the questioner.
I like to make up
stories about him
and imagine what his living room
and kitchen look like.
I wonder
if he makes up
stories about me.

I run and run,
and for this week,
it’s the only time I feel
free. Lately, I feel
like maybe I’m failing
at everything and everything feels
too much yet not enough,
but when I run
and it’s uncomfortable
I know I can
at least do this,
and make it the rest of the day.
I run after lunch,
when the baby naps,
and it’s my only time alone,
outside. Only “Truth Hurts” makes me
keep going, and I listen
to it on repeat for 30 minutes,
to get life out of my hair.

I had my last lesson
with my German tutor because he’s on
a 7 month paternity leave.
He said he hopes
to see me
in person in the summer.
We talk for an hour,
mostly bullshit, and 30 minutes of lessons,
every Tuesday for 3 months,
and we’ve never seen
each other, but I think
we were sort of friends.
I want to learn to speak
but I’m tired,
so I only force myself
to do Duolingo and watch a little TV
in Deutsch. I can only remember
two new words: Himmel and Stark,
and I hope
there is some metaphorical meaning
in me picking them out.
Am I stronger
and freer than I think?

We started a stricter lockdown
today. My mom walks
will have to start earlier
and with only one other
person. I have today
off kid duty,
and I don’t want
to go anywhere.
What fun is it to walk
and shop alone?
I might as well lay
in bed and shower since it’s been
two days since my last.
But I walked
to Rewe in the rain.
Skittles were splayed
across the parking lot,
their bright colors melting
into the pavement.
I am splayed
like them, longing for myself
to be put back
together into a joyous package
of sweetness.

I ran in the rain too,
for 50 minutes until every part
of me was wet. I ran
until my knees hurt,
and in a demented way
the pain makes me
feel like I can find
those pieces that have rolled
too far come back
a little to the center.

The pastor said, God is making
things new again, in this year
of change and longing.
I should be seeing
through faith’s eyes,
and not my own.
That sounds nice
and all, but for now my only faith
is when I run.



Kelly O’Toole spent her life in New Jersey until moving to Germany in 2020 with her husband and three young sons. I Only Have To Change My Mind is Kelly’s first book of poetry. She has also written a coming-of-age novel, and a second book of poetry, Perspectives. Her poems appear in The Elevation Review and scissors & spackle. Kelly taught high school English, and earned a BA in English and Art History, and MAT in teaching secondary English. Kelly has been a stay-at-home mom for six years.