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Why Should I Pray?

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

It’s the last week of April and that means it’s the last week of poetry month. In my sweet little town in Vermont, all over town, the shop windows have poems penned by local poets for any and all to read. Along with the Valentine Phantom, this is one of my favorite things about living here. In past lives, I’ve gotten my coworkers to post their special poems all over the office.

I love poetry as a form of expression. It seems to me to be so free - no need for grammar or punctuation so long as your meaning comes through. I have written poems when I was drunk with desire or very, very sad. I have challenged myself to write a poem a day for a month, just to see what came of that. When I look over my very short portfolio, I have to say, I love every word. I swoon to remember exactly how I felt when I wrote each line.

I used to have several poetry anthologies kept in the bathroom for long leisurely reads while soaking in the tub. I’m no connoisseur, but I am a lover of poetry. I read poetry with my kids, from Never Stew Your Sister to Circles by Hafiz. I’ve read poetry to my lovers if they had the patience. And I am so happy at a poetry slam!

All this is to say, that I feel I’ve exhibited some restraint in not bombarding you all month with poetry. But here’s just the one.

This is one of my all-time favorites from the late and truly great Walt Whitman. When I read this poem, it speaks to the part of myself that wishes I exuded this kind of confidence. It resonates with the part of me that believes this for all bodies. I aspire to the words of this poem.

To truly get the most juice from this poem, I believe it must be read aloud. Give it a try. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do. Thank you for your indulgence.

Why should I pray? why should I venerate and be ceremonious?

Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counsel’d with doctors and calculated close,

I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,

And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

I know I am solid and sound,

To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,

All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know I am deathless,

I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,

I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.

I know I am august,

I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,

I see that the elementary laws never apologize,

(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.)

I exist as I am, that is enough,

If no other in the world be aware I sit content,

And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,

And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,

I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

Song of Myself, excerpted from Part 20, Walt Whitman

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