Sunday, April 20, 2014

Epistemology: Prayer


Epistemology: Prayer






  So,
what       do
we      know   of
prayer?  A   hundred
 nights   I've  prayed
let       me    stop
loving      you
  let    me
    stop    
looking   for     you     in    wind's
twisting    of    clouds,  the  dead
face   of    full   moons,   toppling
piles  of  shut  books   in  tumbl'd
rooms.  Let  my  soul  grow  still,
calm,  old   as  it  should.   Let  it
laugh  in    dog's   tongue,   learn
love   with  small  things, dropp'd
stars,   dawnsongs  of   sparrows,
down  of    new    hatched   birds.
But no                   these prayers
like  every   other   I  have   ever
prayed         return  to   me   un-
answered.     Perhaps for prayers
to  work   they  must   know  you
for what  you   are:   a  loss  with
every gain,  candle  where   no
flame can be;   perhaps   prayers
are only the   match   we    strike
to light desire;  or  perhaps   you
must not care,      beyond fear,  beyond mind,
 if they come true.   I know nothing about prayer.







~January 2014,
extensively revised, April 2014

Another in a series I've written on  various epistemological conundrums of mine.






posted for    real toads


Sunday Challenge: Shape Poems
Kerry asks us to provide a poem in that form known as a concrete, visual or shape poem--one whose shape on the page reflects or is an important element in its subject matter. I have done my best, but I must say the "new, improved, updated" version of blogger makes it very very difficult. Please excuse any irregularities.



Here, for karin, and any curious others, is the original, unshaped, unrevised version written in January. It is a bit different and more rudimentary, as my finished poems always morph and develop a bit from the drafts, but I think it says much the same thing:



Epistemology: Prayer

What do we know of prayer?
A hundred nights I've prayed
let me stop loving you
let me stop looking for you
in the curl of the clouds
the dead face of the moon
a  toppling pile of books  in a tumbled room.

Let my soul grow old as it should,
let it laugh at dogs and love only
the song of blackbirds,
 the soft skin of a quiet child
but this prayer
like every other I have ever prayed
goes unanswered.

Perhaps for prayers to work
you must know them for what they are
a light where no light can be
a loss with every gain

perhaps prayers
are only the match we strike
to light desire  or perhaps
you must want them
 to come true.  I think
we know nothing about prayer.

~January 2014




I really think the revision is a better poem, so thanks to Kerry for the challenge.

Image: Woman Praying, 1883, by Vincent Van Gogh
Public domain, via wikipaintings.org


36 comments:

  1. This is very beautiful....to look at and to read.

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  2. You certainly lit a candle here, Hedge dear. And you're right about Blogger, it does not cooperate. However, you did it, and it's lovely.
    K

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  3. It is hard for me to ever choose my favourite poems of yours, Hedge, because each time I read a new one it goes to the top of my list... but this is just astoundingly brilliant. Perhaps because it so resonates with my own lack of faith in the efficacy of prayer, but mainly because it is so human. You never see fallibility as a weakness, but more as a reality with which we all must come to terms in our own way.

    Despite the madness of blogger, your shape is perfect too.

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    1. Thank you Kerry. You don;t want to know how many hours it took! I would never miss a form prompt from you, however--they always teach me something, and expand my skills, such as they are.

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  4. the tip of the flame is a question, and it burns down, nearly an aside to the final line which forms the base of the candle, the foundation, the waxy remains. and when the question is burned up, with what are we left? is the truth of burning the smoke? the heat? the light? or the after-image, is it the wick scent. is it the dark. ~

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    1. You hit on the reasons I chose the shape, M--other than I thought it needed a simple one(or what I thought was going to be a simple one.) The opening line and last line are the ones I use to start each of my poems in this series about the things which puzzle me into, as the tag says, an epistemological impasse, and I seldom find much in the way of answers except that last line, but the questions seem to serve their own purpose..

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  5. i like how the words light up and the dark end is saddening....love this offer of candle to Him...

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  6. Fitting this prayer into prose and then into what to me looks like an Iron Age stone idol give the epistemological saw its proper log. We know as much about prayer now as we ever did. That we use them to ignite a yearning even when we don't believe in such heaven. Maybe the true prayer is one that praises what is rather trying to change what can't be. The sweet poetry within the jacket of prose and form suggests to me that a prayer is answered by its own eloquence, as in this:

    Let my soul grow still,
    calm, old as it should. Let it
    laugh in dog's tongue, learn
    love with small things, dropp'd
    stars, dawnsongs of sparrows,
    down of new hatched birds.

    The saying makes the prayer come true. When Rilke said "Praising is what matters" in his Sonnets to Orpheus, he also added (in another Sonnet) "Song is reality. You're much more spiritual than most of us, Hedge-- the Louis C.K. of Prayer. Anyway, interesting exercise. I don't think shape poems have any lasting value--a fashion, extolling the Singer's platform-heeled shoes rather than the song. But it's probably just another thing I'm missing.

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    1. "Give" should be "gives" in the first sentence. Add "than" between "rather" and "trying" in the fourth sentence. Sorry. The editor was napping.

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    2. No worries on following the gist--it's very aggravating that one can't edit one's comments, but I actually didn't even notice your typos(only on my second cup of joe) Yes, I felt like I was chipping a very cranky and primitive god(or goddess) out of blogger's recalcitrant stone when I was slicing, dicing and putting this into its wicked-cruel corset. I actually liked this poem before that. However, it did force me into some rewrites that may have been an improvement, if not an answer to prayer...I agree the form is exceptionally fleeting(and also, I think, distracting) but as prayer itself is an exercise and discipline(for some, not me--for me it's the act of a traitorous desperation ;_)) ) it is perhaps not totally inappropriate,
      "We know as much about prayer now as we ever did" is very true, and the foundation of all this religion stuff--such a cauldron of wishes and rules, mystery and didactics, demands and no answers.But of course, there is Something beyond all that, too, that is a part of the human essence,of seeking, and perhaps even the will to peace that can only be found in that conflicted jumble. I don't think I'm ever fated to know more about it, but it is something to chew on, for sure. Thanks for reading B, on a misty Sunday morning as the old gods laugh.at my complications.

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    3. Reading the original, I now see how this form fits -- for you to write about prayer I think there is a need for an old stone puritan bonnet, La Tene era ... it adds a certain irony to the sweetness of the address. Isn't it great that we're amusing someone these days. Maybe that is faith enough.

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  7. an perhaps it is best o know nothing of prayer....smiles....love the concrete candle...

    pray too oft is a wishing well...and then a disappointment for not getting what we want, the way we want it...prayer for me is a humbling, a realizing i can not do it on my own...or decide on my own...

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I don;t think the gist of the poem is much affected by having forced it into this rather basic shape k. I have to admit, I have written a few shape poems for fun and enjoyed the novelty, but I normally wouldn't put one this serious into a corset as I felt I was doing. It was of course, free verse to begin with, and for you I'll dredge up the original and you can give your opinion on it if you care to.--but I try not to miss Kerry's prompts as there has never been one I've done that hasn't taught me something. (Even this one, which is, if you want perfect spacing in blogger, you are doomed to disappointment!)

      I am not much of a pray-er at the best of times, being a pagan at best and an atheist at worst, but it does confound me that there are times when I just do--send off intense, desperate plea bargains, promises and negotiations with fate, in the teeth of not believing there is anything around to even notice--as a pagan, I know that the gods have no interest in making me happy, and as an atheist, I know they are a figment of my yearning and too-romantic imagination, yet one does, when one is at a certain pitch of wanting something. I suppose it's just hard-wired into us.

      Hope you can get a new machine, k. I'm sure the infernal phone device is very handy, but I don't think very good for the eyes. Thanks for reading for meaning and I will try to get the original up for you in a minute. (There are more commas, yes.;_) )

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  9. I deleted my original comments. I very much agree that there is always something to learn from Kerry's prompts. I don't care for shaped poems but I think structure is a teacher. I have to read and see on a real screen. K.

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    1. Hey Hedge--I am even deleting revised comments as I fear that they may influence others' views of the poem, which, like the best poetry, can be read in many different directions. Thanks for posting the original. It is a wonderful poem, and reflects a huge amount of love even as it tries to learn to unlove - not a solution prayer offers. Thanks. k.

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    2. Whatever you are comfortable with is fine with me, k. I had no problem with anything you said, though. Have a good remainder of the day.

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  11. I love the candle shaped words and prayer about praying ~ Perhaps in the silence of our hearts, we know the answer ~ Happy Sunday Joy ~

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  12. "Cloisterphobia"! Oh my goodness, that's a gem.

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  13. What a beautiful poem you have shaped! The candle came out just fine-I knew immediately what it was, but I know what you mean about Blogger!

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  14. I wish that I had written this.

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  15. I loved the phrase "let me stop looking for you in wind's twisting of clouds". Beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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  16. Whew! Raw, yanking... Cathartic. Beautiful work, and the shape of the candle leaves a small light burning, hope, a prayer itself.

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  17. the new version reads more personally than the original i think, which adds to the overall effectiveness--what is more personal than prayer? fear, maybe-- but the two seem directly linked. this really has me wondering how I feel about prayer, not being a pray-er myself as of late. this is a pleasure to read. you've successfully made the line breaks work with the image, which I am sure is the work of a concrete form poem, especially in the candle flame, though the piece maintains integrity thru to the last two stunning lines.

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    1. Thanks, Jane. That original is what I think of as 'the notes' for a poem--what I write out of the blue--I'm glad you feel it made a good transition to something more developed--and yes, the line breaks were trying and difficult, especially since blogger doesn't give you the same view in the editor as you get in the blog preview. Drove me bats. ;_) But it all worked out, as it so often does when we slog on through. Thanks for being so supportive this month--I truly appreciate it.

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    2. You're welcome, It's my pleasure. I admire and enjoy your work, it's quite easy to support.

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  18. I like this poem a lot, and I think the revision is very good. You've tightened the language and the points at which certain words meet the edges of the defining shape are a perfect fit. Very much like the way you changed it to prayers must know YOU for who you are. "I know nothing" is more effective than "we know nothing", in my opinion. It excludes the possibility of the reader arguing with you over their biases or faith. The open flame is such a satisfying image for this subject too. So well done and beautiful!

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    1. Thank you Mark. I appreciate the feedback very much. I just somehow couldn't end it with 'we', even though the proliferation of pronouns is a bit thick. I'm glad you like the change of perspective on the prayers, also--it just seemed more to the whole smoky point, or lack thereof, of what is going on when you pray. And it was a bitch getting the lines to break, believe me. ;_) But I am enjoying this labor of april slog and love a lot--thanks for bearing me company.

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  19. This is beautiful. There are times we sit and watch the flame melt the candle...wanting, waiting for an answer...or question if we really prayed for the right thing to begin with...love the the words and the shape. You always give me much to consider.

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  20. luv your form, luv your words; the questions posed are profound; our approach to prayer is important, we must pray with faith
    Happy Easter season

    much love...

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  21. I wouldn't even know where to start with this challenge. As always yours is a favorite. The image you I love the exploration of prayer in this piece.

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  22. I think often we pray for ourselves - our needs, not for acceptance or others. I really like the space were the hands are - seemingly calm. "Curl of the clouds" was not in your edited version - and I love that.

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  23. Wow...I never even thought of writing first and then shaping...that's an interesting way to go about this...I'll have to try that sometime.

    This is a thought-provoking poem for sure, Hedge...I can relate.

    I love this:

    " Let it
    laugh in dog's tongue, learn
    love with small things, dropp'd
    stars, dawnsongs of sparrows,
    down of new hatched birds."

    So much in this portion that makes me smile.

    Well written piece!!

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg