Poetry October 2005

Prayer

More

audioear pictureHear the author read this poem (in RealAudio)

Artemis—virginal goddess of the hunt, thus
             goddess of childbirth, protector of children, to whom
                          agonized women can cry out—

was not a name I thought of, a place to send
             those sharp gasps, when you descended sideways,
                          still swimming against the narrow walls of me;

or later, after, the low moans, the mews,
             as I throbbed like something flung from a great height
                          and could not be appeased; or in between,

a keening, you by then presenting, the cord—
             the lifeline, tether, leash—lashed like a noose
                          round and round your neck by so much swimming.

I think what I said, if saying is what I did,
             was Sweet Jesus, another virgin who knew
                          the body is first and last an animal,

it eats, shits, fucks, expels the fetus—or doesn't.
             Midnight, lamplight in the barn, the farmer,
                          arm deep in the cow, turning, turning the calf;

and my father, a farmer, phoning up to ask
             what had gone wrong; he could not keep his worry out of his voice.                           Perhaps I should have prayed

to him, or to some other powerful god
             assigned to me, when you were stalled
                          inside the birth canal; and also:

when they ripped you out and cut us free.

Ellen Bryant Voigt is the author of six books of poems, including Shadow of Heaven (2002), a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Vermont.
Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In