A Poem; A Prayer II

“Whom do you pray to?” A friend asked me, once.

“No one,” I replied. “Absolutely nothing.”

We were eating fish and chips. I never pray. Why should one pray? What do you do? Supplicate? Haggle? Haggle with God?

Maybe if my child were lying mortally ill behind a screen, I’d pray but it would be self-conscious. Hope is an appalling feeling. We pray, I guess, to displace the crush of hope. I couldn’t have discussed this with my friend over our chips, but I carried this question around with me for a while. Really, I carried it around until Phil was so ill, then berated myself for not praying. Could I explain to Phil that–though there was a time, maybe twenty-four hours, when I genuinely believed his life to be in danger–I had not prayed? But I had noticed, more than noticed, the cobwebs, and the shoaling light, and the way the doctor listened, and the flecked tweed of her skirt, and the speckled bird and the sickle-cell man’s slim feet. Isn’t that a kind of prayer? The care and maintenance of the web of our noticing, the paying heed?

“What about you?” I asked. “Who do you pray to?”

He took another chip and shrugged. “Dunno. But she’s female. Great Mother, or something.”

–Kathleen Jamie, “Fever” in Findings