One thing you know when you say it:
all over the earth people are saying it with you;
a child blurting it out as the seizures take her,
a woman reciting it on a cot in a hospital.
What if you take a cab through the Tenderloin:
at a street light, a man in a wool cap,
yarn unraveling across his face, knocks at the window;
he says, Please.
By the time you hear what he’s saying,
the light changes, the cab pulls away,
and you don’t go back, though you know
someone just prayed to you the way you pray.
Please: a word so short
it could get lost in the air
as it floats up to God like the feather it is,
knocking and knocking, and finally
falling back to earth as rain,
as pellets of ice, soaking a black branch,
collecting in drains, leaching into the ground,
and you walk in that weather every day.
What is the word that people all over the earth are saying with you? Did you guess it right away? I didn’t on first reading but as soon as I read Please, it caught my heart and the poem has lingered long in my mind. In any language it can hold a similar meaning – a request for attention, for assistance, a petition.
The child, the woman, the man knocking at the window though you don’t go back, though someone just prayed to you the way you pray. How many times in a day do you silently or aloud make that request no matter to what being you pray, even if you don’t believe, don’t even call it prayer.
This small weightless word that could float up to God like the feather it is, asking for whatever we want to be or not, before it falls back to earth as rain, as ice, and you walk in that weather every day. Because this is what we do with that one-word prayer, offering it up each time we hope to be heard.
I had a lovely exchange with Ellery Akers last week in which she generously offered for me to post this poem to share with you. This is one of several on her website which I encourage you to visit. https://elleryakers.com