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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 11, Number 1, March 2017
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Mary Frederick Ahearn
Pottstown, Pennsylvania, USA


Litany

May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream. May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect. Attention is the beginning of devotion. [1]

                       —Mary Oliver

There are some prayers that climb the high mountain, laboring and resolute, until they find the peak and roll swiftly down the other side. There, down in the valley, they move on to villages, towns, and lonely back doors to stay awhile. When rested, the prayers, these devotions, cross creeks, splash into rivers, pass into marshes, then great estuaries and on to the waiting sea. Here, the words and wishes, great and small, become the line between air and sky, the point where all vanishes.

Others move through summer grasses, frosted snowfields, under day moons and clouded nights. Skirting the meadows, they seek the woods, where they'll climb trees to rest in the smallest bird's nest or ride the fading leaf back to earth, turning and returning.

The smallest of petitions, those from the hearts of children and the old, are borne on crickets' songs, butterfly wings, and the furry backs of bees. Then they are left, without regret or shame, deep in the flowers to turn to gold and dust.

those answered, few,
the denied, many—
a turn of the wheel
first sharp and then steady
gives us back our beginnings


Author's Note:

[1] From Upstream: Selected Essays, pages 7-8, by Mary Oliver (Penguin Press, 2016).

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