Idiot Psalms

By Scott Cairns b. 1954 Scott Cairns
1   

       A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by Jew's harp.

O God Belovéd if obliquely so,
                     dimly apprehended in the midst
                     of this, the fraught obscuring fog   
                     of my insufficiently capacious ken,   
                     Ostensible Lover of our kind—while
                     apparently aloof—allow
                     that I might glimpse once more
                     Your shadow in the land, avail
                     for me, a second time, the sense
                     of dire Presence in the pulsing
                     hollow near the heart.   
Once more, O Lord, from Your enormity incline
                     your Face to shine upon Your servant, shy
                     of immolation, if You will.


                                     2   

       A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by baying hounds.

O Shaper of varicolored clay and cellulose, O Keeper
                     of same, O Subtle Tweaker, Agent
                     of energies both appalling and unobserved,   
                     do not allow Your servant's limbs to stiffen
                     or to ossify unduly, do not compel Your servant   
                     to go brittle, neither cramping at the heart,   
                     nor narrowing his affective sympathies
                     neither of the flesh nor of the alleged soul.
Keep me sufficiently limber that I might continue
                     to enjoy my morning run among the lilies   
                     and the rowdy waterfowl, that I might
                     delight in this and every evening's intercourse   
                     with the woman you have set beside me.
Make me to awaken daily with a willingness
                     to roll out readily, accompanied
                     by grateful smirk, a giddy joy,   
                     the idiot's undying expectation,   
                     despite the evidence.


                                     3

       A psalm of Isaak, whispered mid the Philistines, beneath the breath.

Master both invisible and notoriously   
                     slow to act, should You incline to fix   
                     Your generous attentions for the moment
                     to the narrow scene of this our appointed
                     tedium, should You—once our kindly
                     secretary has duly noted which of us
                     is feigning presence, and which excused, which unexcused,
                     You may be entertained to hear how much we find to say
                     about so little. Among these other mediocrities,
                     Your mediocre servant gets a glimpse of how
                     his slow and meager worship might appear
                     from where You endlessly attend our dreariness.
Holy One, forgive, forgo and, if You will, fend off   
                     from this my heart the sense that I am drowning here   
                     amid the motions, the discussions, the several
                     questions endlessly recast, our paper ballots.


                                     4   

       Isaak's penitential psalm, unaccompanied.

Again, and yes again, O Ceaseless Tolerator
                     of our bleaking recurrences, O Forever Forgoing   
                     Foregone (sans conclusion), O Inexhaustible,
                     I find my face against the floor, and yet again
                     my plea escapes from unclean lips, and from a heart
                     caked in and constricted by its own soiled residue.
You are forever, and forever blessed, and I aspire
                     one day to slip my knot and change things up,
                     to manage at least one late season sinlessly,
                     to bow before you yet one time without chagrin.

Source: Poetry (January 2009).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2009
 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, Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Mixed

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

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.