Home > Words of Power > The Atheist’s Art of Prayer

The Atheist’s Art of Prayer

October 26, 2009

by Caitlin Gildrien

it was the day
my oldest friend left
for war

that i began learning
the atheist’s art
of prayer.

having no-one to speak to,
I don’t.
—no pleas,
no bargians
(my good behavior
for her life)
and no hope that I might be heard—

just the bright burning in my heart,
my hands clasped tight to contain it,

—while across the world
she speaks in tongues
and loses weight steadily, rapidly,
until in her photos I can see only her skeleton
peering through the face I used to know—

just my legs, buckled beneath me
and knees bruised
at the weight of it,

—no favors,
no reasoning,
and no hope that I might be heard—

just the insensate laws of cause
and effect, of motion and time and chance,

just the desperate,
helpless, and involuntary feeling
of please.

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Caitlin Gildrien is a writer, farmer and sometime donut-walla in Middlebury, Vermont. She blogs at Up!

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  1. October 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I find this poem very moving, but I also appreciate the restraint of the voice. I identify with this speaker.

  2. October 27, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Very powerful poem. I especially identify with the bright burning – the distance both between the narrator and friend, and narrator and the absence to whom she feels compelled to speak regardless.

  1. February 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm
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