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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Poem of the Week: Prayer

Earlier this year, I highlighted Katherine May's mesmerizing memoir Wintering, which has quietly placed both the Maine library world and the literary world at large under its meditative spell. In Wintering, May quotes a line from Carol Ann Duffy's poem "Prayer,":"Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself." With May so affected by this line, and I in turn so affected by May, I followed the train that I consider one of literature's greatest delights: the implicit scavenger hunt... tracing a thread from one beloved set of words to find another. On that note, I bring you my found reward of Duffy's "Prayer" this week. Carol Ann Duffy has had a poet career of note: after being passed over as the U.K.'s poet laureate in 1999 by Tony Blair because she was viewed as a bit of a radical choice for being lesbian, her continued success (born largely of her ability both to appeal to a general readership and a more literary-minded audience), eventually earned her the first U.K. poet laureate title by a woman in 400 years. So without further comment from Katherine May or myself, here is Duffy's voice:


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.

- Carol Ann Duffy

From Mean Time

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