Six Prayers

By Ralph Salisbury b. 1924 Ralph Salisbury
Thunderer     God of the turbulent sky     may
my turbulent mind shape
for my people
rain clouds
beans
pumpkins
and yams.

East Spirit
Dawn Spirit     may
birds awaken in
the forest of teeth
whose river     your color     must say
frozen mountains’
prayer that you
will loosen them.

Spirit of the North
whose star is our
white mark
like the blaze we chop in the black bark
where the trail home
divides
even in
our homes
we need
you to guide.

Spirit of the Sunset West
may gray clouds
hiding friends from me
glow
like yours
that we grope
toward each other through
a vivid rose.

Spirit of the South
direction of
warm wind
warm rain
and the winter sun
like a pale painting of a morning glory
help me     Spirit     that in my mind humble things
a man may give to his child may grow
the blue of berry
orange of squash
crimson of radish
yellow of corn
when the green of even the tallest pine
is wolf tooth white.

Spirit of the Earth
keeper of Mother Father
Sister Brother
loved ones all
once praying
as I pray
or in some other way
Spirit     the black dirt
is like the black cover of
a book whose words
are black ink I can
not read
but I place my brown hand
on snow
and pray that more than snow
may melt.

Ralph Salisbury, “Six Prayers” from Rainbows of Stone. Copyright © 2000 by Ralph Salisbury. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: Rainbows of Stone (University of Arizona Press, 2000)

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Poet Ralph Salisbury b. 1924

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Other Religions, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity, The Spiritual

 Ralph  Salisbury

Biography

Of Cherokee and Irish American heritage, Ralph Salisbury was born in rural Arlington, Iowa. At the age of 17 he joined the U.S. Air Force and served in World War II, and it was during his time in the military that he began reading and writing poetry. He attended the North Iowa Teachers College on the GI Bill and later transferred to the University of Iowa, where he studied under Robert Lowell and earned an MFA in 1951. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Religion, Other Religions, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity, The Spiritual

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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