A few poems on prayer: #9. “Prayer” by Carol Ann Duffy

by Kim on September 27, 2010

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 I 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 Ann Duffy, Selected Poems, (London: Penguin Books, 2006), p. 127.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


Micky 09.27.10 at 10:35 am

A great poem. She’s now on the A Level English Lit syllabus. The World’s Wife is a great collection


Rachel 09.27.10 at 4:21 pm

One of my favourite poems of all time. Full of such striking images. The performance of “The World’s Wife” at Greenbelt was a real highlight of the festival for me.


Kim 09.27.10 at 4:32 pm

Yeah, The World’s Wife is a hoot and a half. For those who don’t know it, here are the last three stanza’s of the poem “Mrs Aesop” (which begins: “By Christ, he could bore for Purgatory”):

On one appalling evening stroll, we passed an old hare
snoozing in a ditch - he stopped and made a note -
and then, about a mile further on, a tortoise, somebody’s pet,
creeping, slow as marriage, up the road. Slow
but certain, Mrs Aesop, wins the race
. Asshole.

What race? What sour grapes? What silk purse,
sow’s ear, dog in a manger, what big fish? Some days,
I could barely keep awake as the story droned on
towards the moral of itself. Action, Mrs A., speaks louder
than words
. And that’s another thing, the sex

was diabolical. I gave him a fable one night
about a little cock that wouldn’t crow, a razor-sharp axe
with a heart blacker than the pot that called the kettle.
I’ll cut off your tail, all right, I said, to save my face.
That shut him up. I laughed last, longest.

Hey Micky, is that one in the syllabus? ;) It would be a chink of light in an otherwise anusdark British education system.


Kim 09.27.10 at 4:41 pm

Rachel, verse at a Christian festival by - and read by - an atheist lesbian, whose poem “Prayer” is a small revelation. A most excellent event-as-parable.

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