There is a moment prayer occurs
to the conscious mind, or rather
the absence of prayer in the moment of need
hitherto. Experience names the vacuum
it has been seized by,
only the mouth—
the physical fact of the mouth,
sensuous, capable of beauty or deceit—
can’t form the words
the ventral thalamus is telegraphing.
And all the poets were very serious,
the poets of Ireland, the poets of Wales
in the face of this
seethed in mother’s milk. It is all very ironic
or else very far away, those childhoods
of synagogues & ash,
flesh peeled from the left index finger
by a tin snip’s errant jag.
Remorse is not the same as prayer.
Regret, the soul’s oblation
to emptiness: soliloquy
to the unknown god, that Mars Hill
catch-all. We’re sorry, we say
to no one in particular,
the dark lorries, the gorse-studded cliffs.
Sorry, the dumb bones of the saints
from their bruised ossuaries,
a kind of light—corposant, Saint Elmo’s fire—
the names of the dead
(if not the dead themselves)
keep right on seeking. It is not enough
to be indifferent to the body,
its trine majority, its fungible relation.
A cold mist fronted in
from the harbor, every molecule
bristling, alive—so the Greeks maintained—
with motes from a Perceiver’s eye.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.