A penny for your prayer

I really try to ignore the political scene. It’s just too depressing, and like the changing of time for Daylight Savings and back, feels totally outside my control. But after reading today about prayer breakfasts on Capitol Hill, I felt moved to compose this:

Prayer’s a very private thing—
a scouring of the soul, a reckoning,
a probing of just what is meant,
a clarifying of intent.
And anyone I’ve seen to pray
in any kind of public way
who makes a show of piety,
advertises their propriety,
shows up, on examination
to be a card-carrying member
of the hypocrite nation.

Larry, on reading it, shrugged and said “too unsubtle,” and came up with a pithier, more succinct version:

If it’s public it ain’t a prayer.

It’s bon mots like this that keep those gourmet meals coming.

In the same NY Times article, they referenced David Orr’s selection of poems to assign to Congress. Here are two I’d choose:

Sailing to Byzantium by Wm. Yeats

Cantatrice by John Berryman.  As I can’t find this online, here it is, Dream Song #233

Misunderstanding. Misunderstanding, misunderstanding.
Are we stationed here among another thing?
Sometimes I wonder.
After the lightning, this afternoon, came thunder:
the natural world makes sense: cats hate water
and love fish.

Fish, plankton, bats’ radar, the sense of fish
who glide up the coast of South America
and head for Gibraltar.
How do they know it’s there? We call this instinct
by which we dream we know what instinct is,
like misunderstanding.

I was soft on a green girl once and we smiled across
and married, childed. Never did we truly take in
one burning wing.
Henry flounders. What is the name of that fish?
So better organized than we are oh.
Sing to me that name, enchanter, sing!

*                    *                *

How about that for a prayer?

4 thoughts on “A penny for your prayer

  1. I like your prayer and am with you on the news in general and daylight saving in particular. Also Berryman, in general. Side step the nonsense and the extravaganzas of fol-de-rol woven about it, to have a chance of happiness. JB knew that, damn fine. Also the virtue of cutting a line to the bone. A unique and brilliant poet set to one side now, to some extent, it seems because a lot of people think they know better. Not post-modern or gee-whiz sub-Shelleyan in a pseudo hard-bitten key for the glam period. Unfortunately, in my view, they write worse than he. Much. Cagey John knew everything about b.s., his own included. Thanks again for the Dream Song.

    1. I think JB is more experimental, does more for the language than most so-called post-modernists. Glad to have your comment!

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