“At Seventy-Five: Re-Reading An Old Book” by Hayden Carruth

My prayers have been answered, if they were prayers. I live.
I’m alive, and even in rather good health, I believe.
If I’d quit smoking I might live to be a hundred.
Truly this is astonishing, after the poverty and pain,
The suffering. Who would have thought that petty
Endurance could achieve so much?
And prayers –
Were they prayers? Always I was adamant
In my irreligion, and had good reason to be.
Yet prayer is not, I see in old age now,
A matter of doctrine or discipline, but rather
A movement of the natural human mind
Bereft of its place among the animals, the other
Animals. I prayed. Then on paper I wrote
Some of the words I said, which are these poems.

“At Seventy-Five: Re-Reading An Old Book” by Hayden Carruth, from Doctor Jazz, Copper Canyon Press.

4 thoughts on ““At Seventy-Five: Re-Reading An Old Book” by Hayden Carruth

  1. Hayden Carruth also edited a fine paperback anthology of poems called, *The Voice That Is Great Within Us.* It may still be found online or in second-hand bookshops. This particular specimen of his own work is excellent. Notice how the poem moves from “endurance” to “prayer” in its stanzas, which is pretty much where we move to in life when we think our “endurance” is at an end!

    I had to read the ending lines several times before I “got* them, and was startled by their graceful ambiguity. “the animals, the other/Animals?” Which animals, pray tell, might those be? Reminds me of Whitman, “I think I could turn and live with the animals,” but Carruth strikes me as less earthy and more reverent.


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