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.

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.