On Sunday: Beneath the din

Sometimes we go to beach church. Coffee in hand, we drive toward water and light. There, in our church without walls or rules, prayer is sometimes a poem, or, the quiet.


A friend says she knows the exact moment our friendship took hold. We were at the park and I shared a poem with her (A Secret Life by Stephen Dunn). And, I, too, remember the hush like an opening of trust.


This morning, I opened a book and went to "church," poet Mary Ruefle presiding:

Short Lecture on Prayer

James Fenton puts forth the idea that poetry happens when one raises their voice. I agree, but I also believe that poetry happens when one lowers their voice. In the first instance, the raised voice, we have the street hawkers, the singers, the storytellers, the priests — anyone who wants to be heard over the din — but in the second we include the tellers of secrets, the lovers, the password keepers — all those who want to be heard beneath the din, not by the din itself but by one singular other who is part of the din, as when in the middle of a concert we lean to the person next to us and cup our hand around our mouth, forming a private amphitheater, a concert within a concert, connecting ourselves to one the way the concert is connection itself to everyone. And I was thinking about prayer, and those who must raise their voice in order to be heard in their emergency and desperation — O lord out of all those who are vying for your attention at this moment please hear my prayer — and I think actually those raised prayers are directed toward the gods, in the plural sense, which would be a din, the din of gods, caretakers of all the multiple things that can happen to us. But the prayer of the lowered register no longer has a chance of being heard, has abandoned that chance — "given up," we say — yet retains the desire to speak, and I think these are the prayers addressed to god, who has become a singular absence: there is no one in the next seat; the ether becomes an ear.

Cries and whispers. A bang or a whimper. Whatever the case, if we want to be heard, we must raise our voice, or lower it.

— Mary Ruefle
Madness, Rack, & Honey: Collected Lectures