Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Jane Varley: The Language of Prayer

She was beautiful on a hilltop

above the Red Lake River where clouds

dashed sunlight and the scent

of cherry and lilac drifted in, drifted out,

perfumes like a halo, or heaven. 

Breezes textured the air and that word, breeze,

was palpable or like palpability—

you could cup your hands and take it.

I watched a fisherman below me

casting into the brown water,

and I imagined his fish wishes

or that he may have been trying

to get into the mind beneath the surface.

Who knows how to pray? Solicitous, 

I moved to the edge of the sheltering hedge

made for Mary and squinted into the sun, 

and the words of her prayer came as easily

to me as my own name, as the memory

of my grandmother in St. John’s and the rosary,

that conduit to the actual way of praying, 

speaking directly as though they were friends,

God, Mary, and Jesus, even the Holy Spirit,

(abstract but somehow still close)

but it was Mary I always came back to,

Mary who seemed most real, Mary I could ask

for favors, and thank. I knew thanking

was important, my grandmother

with her wild flowers, arranging them into jars,

the shrines I knew before I knew the words,

shrine, blessed, fruit of thy womb Jesus. 


From Mother Mary Comes to Me: A Popculture Poetry Anthology (Madville, 2020). Poem included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.

Jane Varley’s books include a memoir Flood Stage and Rising. She is a professor at Muskingum University in Ohio.

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This entry was posted on March 28, 2021 by in Environmentalism, Poetry, spirituality and tagged , , , .

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