Learning to Pray…Again – a poem by Gloria Hefferman

Learning to Pray…Again

When I was a child
I prayed like a parrot,
a hatchling swallowing 
the food from its mother’s beak.

But I am not a parrot.
And if I were,
I wouldn’t spend my time
repeating everything I heard.
I would quietly preen
my emerald feathers and fly away 
to a rain forest in the mountains of Costa Rica
where I would hear only waterfalls 
and the raucous caw caw caw of my own kind.
And what sounds like random noises
would be my prayers uttered from a perch
high in the trees because I would be closer
to God’s ear there and wouldn’t have to squawk 
so loudly to be heard.

No, I am not a parrot.
And I am not a child.
And the prayers that spring to my lips
are not the words inscribed 
in the Baltimore Catechism,
or memorized in Sunday School
half a century ago.
But I trust God hears them.
So I kneel beside the bed once more 
and press my forehead 
to the cool sheet and beg,
Lord help us. 

Gloria Heffernan is the author of the poetry collection, What the Gratitude List Said to the Bucket List (New York Quarterly Books) and Exploring Poetry of Presence: A Companion Guide for Readers, Writers, and Workshop Facilitators (Back Porch Productions). Her work has appeared in over 100 journals including Chautauqua, Presence, Dappled Things, Braided Way, and Magma. She leads workshops on poetry as a spiritual practice.  

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