147.1: John Fry:: soul, paraphrased & there are four angels standing at the four corners of the earth & every time you wish the sky was something happening to your heart 147

To call this week's selection by John Fry a selection of prayers wouldn't be quite right. Certainly, the speaker in these lyrics longs for something, just as the waterwheel longs for the river's song in "soul, paraphrased." But these lyrics are insistent, even assertive. They have discovered an absence (in the speaker, in the world) and will not let go of that discovery. Like Jacob wrestling the angel, Fry's speaker will not leave until he has received a blessing.

Rereading these lyrics for this introduction, I'm struck by the way they remind me of George Herbert's remarkable "Prayer I." And though the fragmented imagery recalls Herbert's poem (and the first poem uses its language in the title), Fry's speaker manages to add chutzpah to spiritual yearning. Notice the exasperation in a line like "when I tried to tell you every day's a seraph's four faces..." or the dismissive tone in a phrase like "as if it had something to do / with religion." Fry's speaker is a wrestler who will persevere late into the night, demanding the sort of response that can only be delivered by beings of light. Ryan Winet

soul, paraphrased


I have forgotten what I wanted to say—


                    *


prayer’s tarnished
chalice couldn’t hold


night’s
spill, sky:


                    *


(not that sorry was
red and sorrow, blue)


                    *


—but I have forgotten what I wanted to say


something understood—



                    *


the waterwheel is still
waiting for river’s song:


after fireweed blighted the wheat


field long fallow, whisper
sunrise, touch me:


tendril, leaf be green:



there are four angels standing at the four corners of the earth


sometimes our hearts are animals

I cradled the cinders
by the waters of Big Joshua Creek

both hands, barely alight, what had

been my mind:      I’d heard
he was one of those boys

who air out their insides on windowsills

                    *

it had something to do with religion

every full moon, a choir of elderly monks
singing tone-deaf liturgies for each hour

for the virgin hair daily set on fire

inside the almost-ivory chapel,
my ribs an empty sparrow’s cage

“had you not followed the vatic

                    *

your face,” he’d said, “would have been

of brilliant countenance”:       lithographic
landscape beyond the forgotten

ocean of the innermost ear

where one boy, with a wolf for a heart, wants
to eat the songbird nesting inside the other

it had something to do with religion

                    *

when I tried to tell you every day’s a seraph’s four faces watching over

boy/bird       wolf/boy
you brought me the blessed earthenware

cup of winter spiked with nettles & nard

& not even the star dying in my mouth could
dull the bright draught’s ashen rime



every time you wish the sky was something happening to your heart


as if it had something to do with
religion:       spirit in the wheel
of cattle egrets spun
out of the scorched field
lonely for livestock, again alfalfa
eyes yet asleep,
moon become saltpan &
as if the gloaming welled out of



hallowed ground       I will not let thee go

Jacob’s pillow       except thou

white feather ladder       bless me