Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"Prayer", by Carol Ann Duffy


Some poems reach you in just the right moment. And some poems are right for just any moment. Then again, some poems sneak quietly inside you, settle themselves like a pod ready to burst some unknown time inside you, or else just grow greenly away, with you not noticing its unfolding until it takes up as natural a place in you as your, say, thoughts about dinner or next day at school. This poem slid inside in this last way.

It surprised me when I reread this poem and realized how familiar it sounded, and felt the difference from reading it the first time. It simply had familiarized itself to me, turned into the same kind of green and grey my inner landscape can take on when mulling things over or just resting there  - and yet, the freshness and novelty of another's voice. Creating its own space, but strangely attuned to my own. Peculiar.



Prayer
Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, a small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock still, hearing his youth
in the distant latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, a radio's prayer —
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.   

                             -Carol Ann Duffy

***

The opening sentence -  "Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer / utters itself" points to a feeling I guess many might have had - that something wishes to be uttered, that something is knocking on your door, so to speak, or runs through you, making you part of its way. And this is not connected to anything religious, as I see it. Rather, it is the magic of the everyday, the depth and stillness and simplicity any place or time is a vessel for. "Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth / enters our hearts, a small familiar pain". The truth, painful because of our meandering away from it, and now returning to it again - the small, familiar pain of seeing things clearly and unveiled; sitting in themselves; simple.

And then in the close the naming of barren, lone land. Names that open sea-washed, grey stoned and windswept landscapes inside of us, deeply personal yet quite universally human, I think. Utter simplicity.

7 comments:

Lyle Daggett said...

"...Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss."

That's just lovely. I can't think of the number of times I've heard someone, at that time of day, calling a child's name just that way. The sound of it, by itself, evokes for me the coming of evening.

Thekla said...

Yes, that is one of my favourite sentences in this poem too. It's like she addresses emptiness, silence, a vast and valuable aloneness in this way - manifested by the call for a dear one, who is not present in this poem. We are left with the longing feeling of it, the closeness of an absence, so to speak.

Not trying to be a sphinx here ;), but emptiness and the like is very hard to describe with words. Though Duffy does just that, in such an opening way.

Thank you for commenting.
T

Rukhiya said...

Thekla, I stumbled upon your blog while I was looking for a Wallace Stevens poem 'The Plain Sense Of Things' and I am enthralled- Both by your collection and the lovingly detailed notes that go with each. I do not usually like to read poetry analysis but the kind of thoughts you seem to pool for the note makes for interesting reading. Thank you for writing so beautifully and this treasure of a blog. Will frequent this place henceforth :)

Thekla said...

Thank you, Rukhiya. And very welcome you are :)

Rosaleen andrews-sands said...

This prayer speaks to me of past and lost days, a memory and a thread that runs through my life, youth and motherhood old age and the joy of all that I have and have

Rosaleen andrews-sands said...

This prayer speaks to me of past and lost days, a memory and a thread that runs through my life, youth and motherhood old age and the joy of all that I have and have

Rosaleen andrews-sands said...

This prayer speaks to me of past and lost days, a memory and a thread that runs through my life, youth and motherhood old age and the joy of all that I have and have