Excerpt from What the Light Teaches, Anne Michaels

Sometimes I was afraid to touch him,
Afraid my hand would go right through him.
But he was alive in history,
made more painful by love.

I prayed to the sky to lift our father’s head,
To deliver him from memory.

I wish he could lie down
in music he knew intimately, and become
sound, his brain flooded my melody so powerful
it would stretch molecules, dismantle thought.

The truth is why words fail.
We can only reveal by outline,
By circling absence.
But that’s why language
can remember truth when it’s not spoken.
Words in us that defeat,
that wait, even when their spell seems
wasted;
even while silence
accumulates to fate.

Prayer is the effort wresting words
not from silence,
but from the noise of other words.
To penetrate heaven, we must reach
what breaks in us.
The image haunts me:
the double swaying
of prayers on the trains.

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