Tag Archives: ordinary

Concerning That Prayer I Cannot Make

How do you reconcile aloneness with that sharp need for answers and affirmation in a world that seems largely without redeeming qualities? This poem shows us one way that might happen when you’re not expecting it. Also, what is soul and what do I believe about it? What I was taught as a child? How do I see or find soul as an adult?

Concerning That Prayer I Cannot Make                                                       Jane Mead

 

Jesus, I am cruelly lonely

and I do not know what I have done
nor do I suspect that you will answer me.

 

And, what is more, I have spent
these bare months bargaining
with my soul as if I could make her
promise to love me when now it seems
that what I meant when I said “soul”
was that the river reflects
the railway bridge just as the sky
says it should—it speaks that language.

 

I do not know who you are.

 

I come here every day
to be beneath this bridge,
to sit beside this river,
so I must have seen the way
the clouds just slide
under the rusty arch—
without snagging on the bolts,
how they are borne along on the dark water—
I must have noticed their fluent speed
and also how that tattered blue T-shirt
remains snagged on the crown
of the mostly sunk dead tree
despite the current’s constant pulling.
Yes, somewhere in my mind there must
be the image of a sky blue T-shirt, caught,
and the white islands of ice flying by
and the light clouds flying slowly
under the bridge, though today the river’s
fully melted. I must have seen.

 

But I did not see.

 

I am not equal to my longing.
Somewhere there should be a place
the exact shape of my emptiness—
there should be a place
responsible for taking one back.
The river, of course, has no mercy—
it just lifts the dead fish
toward the sea.

Of course, of course.

 

What I meant when I said “soul”
was that there should be a place.

 

On the far bank the warehouse lights
blink red, then green, and all the yellow
machines with their rusted scoops and lifts
sit under a thin layer of sunny frost.

 

And look—
my own palm—
there, slowly rocking.
It is my pale palm—
palm where a black pebble
is turning and turning.

 

Listen—
all you bare trees
burrs
brambles
pile of twigs
red and green lights flashing
muddy bottle shards
shoe half buried—listen
listen, I am holy.

 

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Arabic Coffee

Rituals can seem simple in themselves, but as acts carried out over a period of time they become imbued with complexity and meaning. The sacredness of ordinary things lies within those layers. You don’t have to understand all of this poem to appreciate it’s beauty or appreciate some of it’s remarkable lines.

Arabic Coffee                                     Naomi Shihab Nye

 

It was never too strong for us:

make it blacker, Papa,

thick in the bottom,

tell again how the years will gather

in small white cups,

how luck lives in a spot of grounds.

 

Leaning over the stove, he let it

boil to the top, and down again.

Two times. No sugar in his pot.

And the place where men and women

break off from one another

was not present in that room.

The hundred disappointments,

fire swallowing olive-wood beads

at the warehouse, and the dreams

tucked like pocket handkerchiefs

into each day, took their places

on the table, near the half-empty

dish of corn. And none was

more important than the others,

and all were guests. When

he carried the tray into the room,

high and balanced in his hands,

it was an offering to all of them,

stay, be seated, follow the talk

wherever it goes. The coffee was

the center of the flower.

Like clothes on a line saying

You will live long enough to wear me,

a motion of faith. There is this,

and there is more.