Sunday, April 23, 2017

National Poetry Eh Who Cares, Part 4: The Book of Prayers

There is a small chapel at my place of work where visitors can write their prayer requests, or write prayers for others. I think about it a lot.

 The Book of Prayers


Dear Lord help me not to feel hopeless.
Dear god-that-may-be, angels and saints although I
haven’t seen any evidence, and who
cares for the prayers when the book has been filled? Who
kneels in a circle of candles and incense and  
blesses the pages? Who sets it alight
in a ritual cleansing and scatters
its dust to four corners?  
I just want to tell them all: Wait.

O body O body where
does your Hopelessness live? All over my hands, in little
moles and splotches. I just walk around with it. How
else can it be housed. And the prayers, where
are they supposed to go anyway? Where.
Who’s monitoring.


What you are seeking is freedom, the condition of which is peace in the heart. Do you want to ease pain? Do the prayers compel you? Because it makes you question the alchemy of having put them in writing, which does matter, and also the dilemma: If a prayer is spoken in the woods, does it make a sound? More importantly, does it work as advertised? God would like you to listen more often, meaning, to go fully into the futility. But also to think of your favorite birds:  blue jays, herons, the black-capped chickadee. A prayer is sometimes gratitude, sometimes an ache. Sometimes the flavor of hope which is the flavor of candy. Sometimes a teacup, or a minor death. Or something that rises on the water, great wings dripping, terrible and knowing it. Sometimes: A rosary, a wheelchair, a gondolier, an incision. Or simply the way in which God has written us, oh light divine.


God skids across the floor like a daddy long-legs. Who hears? The telescope
was never removed from its box. There’s nothing to see
anyway, our stars have long been swallowed
whole by a perversion of light. A swathe
of sallow air, two swallows. A whole sky
drained of its angels. All of my thoughts
are soothingly banal. The fish
are climbing the ladder to get home, their
thick backs wagging the infinity symbol.  
The crows have had their heyday, now the leaves.
The gathering decay.
And I would ask of you this: Did you awake in peace?
What if I never.
Then I would ask of you this: Every day, bless one thing. 

--Kristen McHenry

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