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,

seeking benediction

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