For Hana Andronikova
so unmoved by the boatâ€™s slow approach â€” the boat
drifting across the flat green acre of water; a prayer
for these acres of water which, in the soft light, seem firm;
the squirrels, however, are never taken in;
a prayer for the squirrels and their unknowable
but perfect paths; see how they run across
the twisting highway of cedars but never crash;
a prayer for the cedars and their dead knees rising
from the water like tombstones; a prayer for the cedar balls
that break when you touch them and stain
your fingers yellow, that release from their tiny bellies
the smell of old churches, of something holy;
a prayer returned to the holy alligators â€” you owe them
that at least, for just last night when you thought
of Hana Andronikova you asked them to pray
with you, knowing that their prayers are potent;
at night the grass is full of their red eyes; a prayer
for the grass which the alligators divide
in the shape of a never-ending S; you lean over
to pull some into the boat; in Burma
this is called Ka-Na-Paw, and can be cooked
with salt and oil; a prayer for the languages
we know this landscape by; for the French
as spoken by fat fishermen, the fat fishermen
who admit to the water â€” we all dying.
You understand? Savez? A prayer
for the dying that will come to all of us
but may it come soft as a boat drifting across the bayou.
May it find us unrattled and as unflummoxed as the beaver.
~ Kei Miller
Kei Miller was born in Jamaica. His first collection of short fiction, â€˜The Fear of Stonesâ€™, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize in 2007. His first poetry collection, â€˜Kingdom of Empty Belliesâ€™, was published in March 2006 by Heaventree Press; his second, â€˜There Is an Anger That Movesâ€™, was published by Carcanet in October 2007. He is also the editor of Carcanet’s â€˜New Caribbean Poetry: An Anthologyâ€™. He currently teaches Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. His latest publications are the Forward Prize-shortlisted â€˜The Cartographer tries to map a way to Zionâ€™ (Carcanet 2014), and â€˜Writing down the vision: essays and visionsâ€™ (Peepal Tree Press 2013), which won the Bocas Literary Prize for non- fiction in 2014.