Prayerful Poetry


The silence of God is God.
CAROLYN FORCHÉ, The Angel of History

I found Carolyn Forché’s poetry by chance. It was an exhilarating discovery — and I alluded to her book The Angel of History in a proposal for a conference paper on Roberto Rossellini’s cinema and Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of history. She is one of most distinguished American living poets also known for her humanitarian and social work. Forché has taught at Columbia University and other institutions and is the director of the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University. You can read some of her poems and essays here. This is one example of her poetic work, “Prayer”:

Begin again among the poorest, moments off, in another time time and place.
Belongings gathered in the last hour to be taken, visible invisible:
Tin spoon, teacup, tremble of tray, carpet hanging from sorrow’s balcony.
Say goodbye to everything. With a wave of your hand, gesture to all you have known.
Begin with bread torn from bread, beans given to the hungriest, a carcass of flies.
Take the polished stillness from a locked church, prayer notes left between stones.
Answer them and in your net hoist voices from the troubled hours.
Sleep only when the least among them sleeps, and then only until the birds.
Make the flat-bed truck your time and place. Make the least daily wage your value.
Language will rise then like language from the mouth of a still river. No one’s mouth.
Bring night to your imagingings. Bring the darkest passage of your holy book.