Stuart Dybek - “Benediction”
The fly is giving another sermon;
we bow to mud, receiving absolution from a worm.
Impatient with the pace of prayer
--the journey’s too long to make on our knees—
we scour the alleys for discarded slogans,
for proverbs banned from Bibles,
ignited by guitars—electric fire
branding air with a graffiti of psalms.
My clothesline whip drove wind and stars;
pigeons, not ponies, pulled my droshky,
At dusk, we traced the peddler’s dirge
to the misted mouth
of a viaduct that swallowed full moons.
The horizon was strung on the other side,
But when a border of boxcars rumbled its drums
we fled down the neon tail
of the comet known as Cermak Road.
Night was that narrow—
a strip of darkness between shop signs.
Snow fell from the height
of a streetlamp.
I knew the names of seven attending angels
But was seventeen before I saw
my first jay.
Yet I worshipped the natural world
Like an immigrant
in an adopted country—
the one in which he should have been born.
For me, the complexity of a grasshopper
from the Congo behind a billboard
was irrefutable proof
of God and his baffling order.
And in my heart
I still kneel on a weed lot in summer,
beneath the glittering cross
of a dragonfly.
“Benediction” was first published in The Missouri Review and subsequently appeared in Streets in Their Own Ink (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004). Copyright © 2004 by Stuart Dybek