Friday, 21 September 2007


Prayer, by Carol Ann Duffy

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


Jane Holland: Editor said...

Interesting, that last line, especially coupled with the naming of the child as though they named their loss - I'm thinking, of course, of Yeats' great nationalist poem 'Easter 1916':

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.

These great poems provide the timeless echoes that linger in the mind and sometimes perhaps work their way into other places ...


Bo said...

Yes! It is a very very clever poem. Larkinesque, and in the simplest language. And yet it is incredibly tautly structured. The way there's a class as well as gender difference suggested between the woman of stanza 1 and the man of stanza 2, all done using the words 'sieve' and 'Latin'. Amazing.