Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A poem in my head


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, that 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, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.
Carol Anne Dufffy (1994)

I woke up this morning with this poem in my head. I can't explain where it came from, but it was there, as it probably has been since A levels. Once upon a time, I had a conversation with a friend at university who said she couldn't bear this poem because it was just so obvious. But for me, that's what makes it so beautiful; the everyday mundanity of it, the secularity of the music and the landscape of Britain so wonderfully drawn in so few lines.  I adore Carol Anne Duffy's poems, but I think this has to be my favourite because it is so deceptively complete, although it feels so simple and barely even there. Some days, although I cannot pray, this prayer utters itself in my waking.


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