Pray to Love

One of my students sent me this poem today, and I thought I’d share on the blog. The author is 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.

To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.

Record Keeper of time before, time now, time ahead, pray.

Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.

Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.

pray on the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,

for everyone riding buses all over the world.

Of you haven’t been on bus in a long time,

climb the few steps, 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.

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.

If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.

Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.

Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.

Pray to the angels and the ghost of your grandfather.


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:

we will do 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– pray for love.

Pull weeds for love, turn over in your sleep for love,

feed the birds for love, each shiny seed

that spills onto the earth, another second of love.

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.

With each breath in, take in the faith of those

who have believed when belief seemed foolish,

who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.     —- By Ellen Bass, Edited by Rachelle S