Prayer, and other ways to cry…

prayer-blocksHow many sayings about prayer have you heard?

Sayings like: We should pray to live, but live to pray. (Kind of hate that one.)

Prayer changes things. (Or it’s opposite: Prayer doesn’t change things, it changes the person who prays.)

As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools. (The culture wars are good for pissed-off prayer quips.)

Prayer is not talking, it is listening. (Wow, that’s deep – too deep for words.)

Prayer requests should become our to-do list. (i.e. Get up and do something.)

Prayer is a steering wheel, not a spare tire. (Guilt reigns supreme, even in prayer.)

There is no such thing as too much prayer. (Except when dinner’s getting cold.)

The irony, of course, is that all the sermons and sayings about prayer are sermons and sayings and not prayer.

But poetry and prayer are closer than siblings.

Two Kinds
There are two kinds of prayers prayed
at the end of each and every day,
one from the naive filled with hope
on hope on top of hope of tomorrows
that will always come and keep coming,
forgiveness is similarly unending,
and everyone and everything will be
there because it can’t be any other way;
the other is for mercy with revenge
or some karma (if that’s on the table),
maybe no tomorrow if it’s the same
as today and yesterday and yesterdays
that chase them deep into the night,
while dust crumbles back to dust
and there is no more pride. Amen.

Careening Through Life
Do trees cast off their leaves,
eager to be free of those parasites
drawing more than they offer;
do they cure and fall themselves
as birds leave nests never to return again;
or is there a romantic but exhausted grasp
which simply but reluctantly
fails in the cold of November?
Do the vivid colors of toys
cling to pathways cossetted in the
soft tissue of my memory;
a red fire truck of tin metal
and sharp edges that cut
my tender fingers as I played
the role of rescuer in the midst of
a horrible blaze; and what of the smell
of Mom’s cookies – unmistakable
and gone forever except in words
put together in strings
without sentences; is there a way back
to those sunny afternoons
with powdered sugar floating in the air
and me praying for a broken sample?

When It Rains
It’s raining on the prairie, but not in answer to prayer
as we huddle inside a dusty museum wondering
at the recreation of a settler’s life, determined by
weather and wind and rain on the cut fields of earth;
if we shiver in a sudden summer storm and wonder
at the musky air it’s best to recall that people died
here – in this room probably, because they did
everything in this one, dark room – but we can’t
wait for the storm to end and go on with our fun.

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