top of page

“American Prayer,” a poem by David Garyan

“American Prayer” was first published in Volume 10 of The American Journal of Poetry (January 1st, 2021).

American Prayer

A long time has passed since I’ve been alive; that was when waves convinced me of the ocean’s danger, when fires lit for no purpose could feel warm, when the composer’s ear still heard joy in laughter, when the cook’s tongue never spoke a gloomy word, when the killer’s hand cut with the same care as the surgeon’s, when a mother’s eyes could stand to watch her children fall— if only, for a second, to study the world’s pain. Say, how do you feel naked in a room where no one wants to turn on the light? How do you feel at home when every neighbor hates you— but only because they admire your house? My world has become a jungle in which I’m always in danger, but where I feel no fear; my thoughts have become a circus in which I mustn’t trust the goodness of clowns— especially when they’re smiling. I can no longer tell the lions apart. I’ve built so many cages for myself—the wilderness inside me has escaped; my anger is an arsonist happily lighting just one candle in church— then leaving without regret; my depression washes the windows of skyscrapers without ever looking down. The Europe I’ve known has vanished like a prostitute everyone wants to sleep with, but no one cares to look for. The America I’ve disowned has returned like an illness I brought upon myself. America, I’m a smoker trying to treat cancer without quitting cigarettes. Europe, I need a feminist wife, the one who’ll obey my every command because she wants to— and feels empowered to act this way. What’s next? Asia? Like winter searching for love in the mountains, like summer trying to hide its secret from fire, I’ve run away from myself— I’ve gone somewhere new where it’s always the same, where everyone knows who I am because they’ve never seen me before. I’m giving myself away like an artist no one can stand, but everyone wants to collect. The world is imposing itself like a virgin looking to rape someone. Every government has made me hate the silence of crowded libraries. Every institution has given me reasons to question the shape of a question mark. I’ve lost all faith in my prophets— every day I laugh at their caricatures. My courage is a cartoonist living in France who draws what he wants but never shows his work out of fear. My cage is a religion that tells me I’m free— so long as I don’t leave it. No, it’s better to bury the words of dead seers and their rules all over Europe’s streets; they resemble the abyss you find at the bottom of someone’s cup when they’re drinking alone and the bartender will no longer serve them. Like a terrorist without friends looking for a crowd, I’ve come to hate the happiness of large parties; my own whiskey is sweeter and I can’t stand the bitterness when I’m not drinking it. Still, I despise the smiles of a thousand strangers. I’ve begun admiring the mountains like a geographer who can’t wait to retire. I start my prayers like poor people who want to steal, but don’t have the courage for it. I watch every sunset like an old man that knows he isn’t waking up tomorrow. I wait and wait for the sunrise like a drunk woman anxious to get a better look at her one-night stand. At noon, I ask myself questions— the ones which bore even fat philosophers who’ve done too much sitting and thinking. After lunch, I think about the loaded revolver under my pillow, and this makes me tired— I take a nap and fly myself to the next sunset.


bottom of page