Flannery’s Quandary

/ /

“I will always be staggering between Despair & Presumption, facing first one & then the other,
deciding which one makes me look best.”
–Flannery O’Connor, Prayer Journal, November 6, 1946

Flannery O’Connor at Andalusia, circa 1957.
*This is the first publication of this rare photograph.*
Photo courtesy of the private collection of Dr. Martha Wilson.
For reprint permissions, please contact Literary Matters.

And neither is a place I ought to be.
I know that, Lord, is true. I also know
I shouldn’t eat sugar with a spoon,
smear leaf lard on my bread, drink coffee
before bed, and yet I do. I could go
on listing my sins, but I won’t
since pride’s a sin, too, and one I’m good at.
No matter what I do I seem doomed
to treat faith like a beauty contest.
I have a talent for darkness and doubt
way above average. Being the best
at everything is tiresome, but I don’t
see myself learning another way to be.
I’m a failure at mediocrity.