Praying with George Herbert in Late Winter

Tom Andrews

"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.

Tom Andrews was a native of West Virginia and winner of both the National Poetry Series and the Iowa Poetry Prize. His untimely death in 2001 cut short a career marked by early achievement and remarkable innovation. Random Symmetries, his collected works, was published by Oberlin College Press in 2002.
“Praying with George Herbert in Late Winter” appeared in Random Symmetries: The Collected Poems of Tom Andrews and is reprinted with the permission of Oberlin College Press.
Header image by from “Riverwalk” by Holden Richards.