A Strip Mall Hymn


I have a conflicted relationship with suburban life, not because the suburbs are any more or less defective than the city, but because I have a conflicted relationship to life in this world. There’s beauty and ugliness, beauty in the ugliness, and ugliness in the beauty I suppose. The trick is to find hope and to love the beauty as it is – always contested, always fragile, always indestructible.

A Strip Mall Hymn

The flat-light of an age worn strip mall on the edge of a dying town

An anytown, anywhere and nowhere

of the pharmacy, of the fast-food restaurant

of the supermarket, of the dry cleaner, of the smoke shop;

Calls out in the rain soaked night where streetlight halos

are mirrored on wet asphalt and echo the holy longings

of long-departed saints

Where the storefront’s dim-lit promises

of pills for peace from the storm-tossed bed,

of food empty of the memory of the land that birthed it

or the blood ransom of the slaughterhouse,

of wardrobes undisturbed by the frail fingers

of the overworked child in an overlooked factory

forgotten in some foreign corner,

of carcinogens that make the pain of distraction tolerable –

Still these broken lights pouring out on broken souls

Speak of something sacred, undimmed, unhoped and hoped

Lingering beyond the wet shadows on the eastern horizon.


Beneath the façade and the hidden frauds

That shadow the back alley

And the dumpster, the detritus, the distractions

Lies something precious, hidden

as precious things must be –

Of the self unselfed and selfed in return

and free in the rain

Among the streetlight saints

And the faceless faces full of hope and lost hope,

Full of hope through the empty fullness of the soul –

for the dance

for the hope of the dance

of baptism in the rain-lit night

beneath the broken lights

Where strip mall signs signify sacred longings

that aren’t for sale

that surrender at last to the stillness

and to the dance.


© Jedidiah Paschall



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