Replies to the Immediate

By Scott Cairns

No, he mumbled from the podium, the poems
are not my songs. A breeze
troubled the papers in his hands, and a shift
in the air also sent
a wave across those seated, tossing their hair,
their broad lapels, their scarves.
The programs in their hands also whispered. Nor,
the man continued, nor
are they my prayers. At that word, the air grew still,
and across his face passed both
a tremor and a calm. Song, he said, attains
to a condition the poem
dare not attend. And prayer? Who would frame a poem
when he had better find
his knees, in silence, having put his art away?

“Replies to the Immediate” from Slow Pilgrim by Scott Cairns. Copyright © 2015 by Scott Cairns. Used by permission of Paraclete Press.