Possible Answers to Prayer

By Scott Cairns b. 1954 Scott Cairns
Your petitions—though they continue to bear   
just the one signature—have been duly recorded.   
Your anxieties—despite their constant,

relatively narrow scope and inadvertent   
entertainment value—nonetheless serve   
to bring your person vividly to mind.

Your repentance—all but obscured beneath   
a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more   
conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.

Your intermittent concern for the sick,   
the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes   
recognizable to me, if not to them.

Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly   
righteous indignation toward the many   
whose habits and sympathies offend you—         

these must burn away before you’ll apprehend   
how near I am, with what fervor I adore
precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.


Scott Cairns, “Possible Answers to Prayer” from Philokalia: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Scott Cairns. Reprinted with the permission of Zoo Press.

Source: Philokalia: New and Selected Poems (Zoo Press, 2002)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Scott Cairns b. 1954

Subjects Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Scott  Cairns

Biography

Scott Cairns was born in Tacoma, Washington. He received his B.A. from Western Washington University, his M.A. from Hollins College, an M.F.A. from Bowling Green State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Cairns has taught at numerous universities including University of North Texas, Old Dominion University, and the University of Missouri. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2006.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.