Praying with George Herbert in Late Winter

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Praying with George Herbert in Late Winter

by Tom Andrews
Southern Cultures, Vol. 11, No. 2: Summer 2005

"Outside, light swarms / and particularizes the snow . . ."


In fits and starts, Lord,
our words work
the other side of language
where you lie if you can be said
to lie. Mercy upon
the priest who calls on you
to nurture and to terrorize
him, for you oblige.
Mercy upon you, breath’s engine
returning what is to what is.
Outside, light swarms
and particularizes the snow;
tree limbs crack with ice
and drop. I can say
there is a larger something
inside me. I can say,
“Gratitude is
a strange country.” But what
would I give to live there?

Something breaks in us,
and keeps breaking. Charity,
be severe with me.
Mercy, lay on your hands.
White robes on
the cypress tree. Sparrows
clot the fence posts;
they hop once and weave
through the bleached air.
Lord, I drift on the words
I speak to you—
the words take on
and utter me. In what
language are you not
what we say you are?
Surprise me, Lord, as a seed
surprises itself . . .

Today the sun has the inward look
of the eye of the Christ child.
Grace falls at odd angles from heaven
to earth: my sins are bright sparks
in the dark of blamelessness . . .
Yes. From my window I watch a boy step
backwards down the snow-covered road,
studying his sudden boot tracks.
The wedding of his look and the world!
And for a moment, Lord, I think
I understand about you and silence . . .
But what a racket I make in telling you.