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Nocturne

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Last night in bed
I mouthed a prayer
of my own composition.

It sounded offhand, it was carelessly
addressed, it twisted my meaning
entirely, it left an ache,
I didn’t know what I was doing.

So I took down my yellowed copy
of French With Pictures
by the late literary critic I.A. Richards
and I put my petition
into soft French words.

I.A. Richards believed that irony
was the language of redemption.
He wrote and lectured famously on this,
but his masterpiece was French With Pictures.
“The chapeau is on the table.”
“The man with the beard stands before the window.”
“She comes from a village by the sea.”

There is no improving the old traditions.
They are already mortal, partial, and wrong.
The woman at the table by the window
puts her head into her hands.
“Into your hands,” she said.

Source: Poetry (January 2013)

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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Nocturne

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