I Think Clapping is How Hands Mourn

The False Mirror by Rene Magritte (1928)

The False Mirror by Rene Magritte (1928)

3 November 2013
11:52 PM


I have forgotten how to pray. I think perhaps I’m not made for it…

I was about to say that I don’t like the idea of talking to someone I can’t see, and then I realise I am writing a letter to you each day, and I am facing a screen, and not your face.

I think perhaps writing is praying. I think perhaps poems are prayers.

When I think of God, I think of Nina Simone. Lions. How the iris is like the universe. How I am a fool, because I know nothing at all.

I involuntarily cringe whenever someone tells me, “Pray for me,” or “Pray for [this].” Why? What does it change? If you can’t do it yourself–does a collective hold more sway? And what if you are utterly alone?

I never know how to respond. I think praying is giving thanks. It is grace and gratitude. Also, possibly: surrender. Being naked. I don’t think it was meant for asking. Is it? I might be wrong.

I have forgotten all the prayers that have been taught me. It’s because I’ve been questioning things for a long time. Hymns have been replaced by questions. Psalms have been replaced by questions.

Perhaps questions are prayers I’ve taught myself. Perhaps saying, I am wrong, I am wrong, I am wrong is a prayer, too.

Here are some more that I’ve added to my book:

One from J.M. Barrie: “Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.”

One from Rumi: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

One from Goethe: “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

One from Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

One from Anne Lamott: “Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

One from Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

One from Bob Hicok: “Never expect your lives to finish at the same time.”

One from Derek Walcott: “You will love again the stranger who was your self.”

Everything from Mary Oliver.

Perhaps everything from my shelves.

When I’m peeling an orange, when I’m tying a shoelace, when I look for my grandfather’s face in every old man I see on a bike–I think perhaps I am praying.

When I’m kneeling before a poem because it told exactly how I felt, when I am waiting for someone I love to not leave me, when I am lying in the dark with my arms around myself–I think perhaps I am praying.

When I’m gathering dust and scrubbing the floor, when I am turning round and round in one place with my hands held up above my head, when I hesitate before I send a letter–I think perhaps I am praying.



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