Monday, October 11, 2010

Franz Wright's "Why is the Winter Light": Poetry as Prayer

This is courtesy of Panhala, which daily posts what I can only describe as inspirational poems--poems of inbreathing, of spiritus.  As I've been trying to write my own prayer poems, I'm amazed how Franz Wright has so thoroughly, so unabashedly, dived into the rhetoric of prayer, at a time when so many poets and poems are allergic not only to the authenticity mode, but also to any wider claims of voice, of the transcendent, of belief.  As in great religious poetry, we feel the struggle, the wound, and also how the wound becomes the site of grace--what Leonard Cohen sang: "there is a crack in everything/that's how the light gets in."

"Why is the Winter Light"

Why is the winter light
disturbing, and who
if anyone shares this impression?
If somebody enters the room
am I going to stop being afraid?
Why am I afraid
to go grocery shopping?
I suppose there is a pill for that, but
why? Surrounded by so vast
a cloud of witnesses
why do I feel this alone
in the first place? Is heaven a place
and if so, will our poor
hairy speechless forebears-
all millions of years of them-
be there to greet us
if and when we arrive? The meek
shall inherit Auschwitz, too,
if they're not careful. Where do such obscenities
of thought originate? And are the words
we speak being mercilessly recorded, or
are we speaking the already written
premeditated words? Why
do I want to live
forever, and the next day
fervently wish I had died
when I was young? Why do I abruptly feel blessed?
And if (and it does) this city harbors
a single individual suffering
unendurably, am I
prepared to take his place?


Empty me of the bitterness and disappointment of being nothing but
Immerse me in the mystery of reality
Fill me with love for the truly afflicted
that hopeless love, if need be
make me one of them again --
Awaken me to the reality of this place
and from the longed-for or remembered place
And more than thus, behind each face
induct, oh introduce me in --
to the halting disturbed ungrammatical soundless
words of others' thoughts
not the drivel coming out of our mouths
Blot me out, fill me with nothing but consciousness
of the holiness, the meaning
of these unseeable, all
these unvisitable worlds which surround me:
others' actual thoughts -- everything
I can't perceive yet
know it is there.

~ Franz Wright ~
(God's Silence)


Maureen said...

Thank you for showcasing these extraordinary words.

Penultimatina said...

I love Franz Wright's poems. Thank you for posting this.

I also loved the prayer/poems you read the other day.

Thank you!