Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter
where there is a void to receive it…
Simone Weil, it’s hard to concentrate on you
with those three boys on the next bench
blowing up balloons and letting them go,
all squirt and grunt, fizzling into—
the void, I think you’d say. And leaving
a void too—if spent breath becomes exhaust,
if everything we do ends up empty.
So prayer, you’d add, becomes a little death
as we pour our desires into words
that fill to bursting, then leave our lips
to corkscrew and sputter into thin air,
selfless, anonymous enough to rise.
Now the boys race up the slide, all high-fives
and laughter, blowing off gravity, while I read
you’d like to be blown away, see a landscape
as it is when I am not there—as if the self
blocks God the way bodies block light.
Thus your executor was to destroy
all record of your mind—those notebooks filled
with stark meditations as Hitler railed,
as death camps filled and ghettos burned. Love is
not consolation, you wrote, it is light,
meaning that fierce headlamp of attention
which leaves the self in shadow and trains
its high beam on that void where prisoners
huddle under gravity’s dark weight,
and grace, if it comes, comes in secret,
to those struck dumb, trembling in the glare.
This poem was selected for Best Poetry 2009.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.