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
new century
seethed in mother’s milk. It is all very ironic
or else very far away, those childhoods
of synagogues & ash,
harsh words,
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
whisper back
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.

Access one piece of artwork every month for free! To experience the full archive, log in or subscribe.

Related Poetry

In Cutaway


Michael Symmons Roberts

El Cristo de Piedra


Orlando Ricardo Menes

image of long skinny river boat in the nighttime, the sky and water are a deep dark purple blue that blends into each other. the boat is lit by two small pockets of light, candles perhaps, one held by a man at the prow of the boat. his reflection and the reflection of the light in his hand glimmers in the water.

The Contemplative Life


Marilyn Nelson

dark ground wet from rain with a gold reflection glimmering on the surface.

Ian’s Angels


Nancy Willard

Pin It on Pinterest