Prayer for 2018

Surely there was a river, once, but there is no river here. Only a sound of drowning in the dark between the trees. The sound of wet, and only that. Surely there was a country that I called my country, once. Before the thief who would be king made other countries of us all. Before the bright screens everywhere in which another country lives. But what is it, anyway, to live—to breathe, to act, to love, to eat? Surely there was a real earth, wild and green, here, blossoming. Land of milk and honey, once. Land of wind-swept plains and blood, then of shackles and of iron. And then the black smoke of its cities and the laying down of laws. Under which some flourished—if you call that flourishing—and from which others would have fled had there been anywhere to flee. My country, which is cruel, and which is beautiful and lost. Surely, there were notes that made a song, a pledge of birds. And not a child in any cage, no man or woman in a ditch. Surely, what we meant was to anoint some other god. One made of wind and starlight, pulsing, heart that matched the human heart. Surely that god watches us, now, one eye in the river, one eye where the river was.


Copyright © 2024 by Cecilia Woloch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.