“Pray for Peace” by Ellen Bass

Pray to whomever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah. Raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekhina, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.
On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,
for everyone riding buses all over the world.
Drop some silver and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.
Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already prayer.
Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile cases we are poured into.

If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:
less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas–

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Scoop your holy water
from the gutter. Gnaw your crust.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

Ellen Bass, from The Human Line


“Prayer of St. Francis” performed by Sarah McLachlan and students from The Sarah McLachlan School of Music


6 thoughts on ““Pray for Peace” by Ellen Bass

  1. Brian Dean Powers

    “….the fragile cases we are poured into.” Nicely put!

    When I first saw “pray” in the title, I wasn’t going to read this poem. The news recently is full of religious people who want to shun folks like me, so I’m not feeling very generous these days. Luckily, this poem has nothing to do with that.


    1. “Pray” and “peace” can become catch-phrases, especially in troubled times

      I think even the most non-religious and jaded of us can still find something to believe in, something to be grateful for. Even if it’s love, beauty, nature, music, poetry, stillness, laughter, even a glint of light in a darkened sky.

      Like Rumi “said”, there are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

      “Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. sufi mystic – jelaluddin rumi – 13th century” Ellen Bass is a lovely poet. Reminds me a lot of David Whyte. You’d probably enjoy her work. I’ve shared her poetry a few times; one of my favorites is “The Thing Is:”


      Sent from my iPhone


      Liked by 2 people

  2. mishedup

    oh this is beautiful…
    and the idea of prayer and Brian’s words….
    here is prayer offered in context of life, of every moment as an offering to peace, for peace.
    I am reminded of Sharon Salzberg, her street loving-kindness practice, offering metta to those in line with you, in traffic with you…
    in the context of daily life.

    I meditate and do yoga and make time for those things in my life…but this idea of being aware in every moment is hard, hard. I am so inspired to try this.
    Reading this blog for peace, eating this apple for peace….

    love this, and love the St. Francis prayer..so personal to me on a couple of different levels.
    “make me an instrument of thy peace….”

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I loved this so much.
    I have always been a praying person, and I do it in the many ways the author describes. On the move, in the flowers, in line at the DMV…so many places to pray, breathe, and be grateful. No matter your beliefs, denomination, or level of despair.
    And that song! I love Sarah…perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

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