Like most who dabble with the dirty, pretentious circle-jerk that is modern poetry, I am a raging narcissist, completely unable to fathom or grasp the concept that anyone could be compared to anyone else.
This is an interesting and moving poem about the prayer habits of women and shepherds in another region of the world and about the young ones who went to America and no longer prayed. Dan
Different Ways to Pray – BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE | Source: Poetry Foundation website |
There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow
fuse them to the sky.
There were the men who had been shepherds so long
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,
and were happy in spite of the pain,
because there was also happiness.
Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.
When they arrived at Mecca
they would circle the holy places,
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.
While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.
There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.
And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,
and was famous for his laugh.
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
One of the wonders of poetry is a good poet’s ability to compress a great deal of life into a few words. Here’s a life story told small, by Ivan Hobson, who lives in California.
Every family that lived in our court
had an American truck
with a union sticker on the back
and as a kid I admired them
the way I thought our soldiers
must have admired Patton
and Sherman tanks.
You once told me
that the Russians couldn’t take us,
not with towns like ours
full of iron, full of workers tempered
by the fires of foundries and mills.
It wasn’t the Russians that came;
it was the contract, the strike,
the rounds of layoffs that blistered
until your number was called.
I still remember you loading up
to leave for the last time,
the union sticker scraped off
with a putty knife,
the end of the white tarp draped
over your truck bed
flapping as you drove away.