National Poetry Month 2023: Day 9

Happy Easter, if you’re celebrating it. I have been, with my extended family and some friends, and it has been a lot of fun. No religious services were involved, though.

As with many holidays, I can recognize the religious or cultural origins of the occasion and also appreciate how the holiday has evolved for my particular circle of loved ones. Some still view it as a religious observance, and hey, more power to them! But for some of us, the day is also, importantly, a chance to reconnect with the people we need and crave in our lives, to share good food (it’s after 8:30 p.m. and I’m still full from lunch), and to just enjoy being all together again for a few hours. This observance is important, too.

I chose A.E. Housman’s poem tonight for a couple of reasons: first, it’s an empirically good poem; second, he was an atheist but wanted to believe, and I think there’s something powerful in acknowledging a person’s spiritual longings. I don’t share his views or his emptiness, but I honor them as valid.

In his poem, he calls on Christ to come back and fix things in the world. Let me be perfectly clear: I do not share this sentiment at all.

However, I do want people to fix the messes they’ve created — and those messes are legion. I think people should take responsibility for the way they act, the way they treat others, the way they influence their sphere, and even their thoughts. So if everyone could please do that, well, splendid.

Otherwise, I hope you’ve had a really lovely weekend and that you enjoy this poem.

Easter Hymn

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.


The poet A. E. Housman (1859-1936) published just two volumes of poems in his lifetime: A Shropshire Lad (1896) and Last Poems (1922). Yet he remains one of the most widely-read poets of his era, on the strength of these two books and a selection of posthumously published poems. “Easter Hymn” opens More Poems, which was published shortly after Housman’s death in 1936.

Biographical information respectfully quoted from the Interesting Literature blog.

Featured Poet: Rachel Dacus

I knew someone who had this great bumper sticker. It said, “God bless the whole world. No exceptions.” I live in Texas, and the news cycle hurts. I was raised with religion, but I don’t recognize very much of what I was taught in the people who profess their faith in the public sphere. It’s enough to make a person forget that any of it matters, to dismiss that stuff as crazy. You don’t have to wield a machine gun or build IEDs to be radicalized.

It’s Easter here. And Passover. And Oester. And Sunday, and April, and springtime, and raining, and probably several other things. That seems like a good time to share this lovely poem with you, from Rachel Dacus. It appears in her collection Gods of Water and Air (Aldrich Press, 2013).

I hope whatever good thing you’re celebrating today makes you feel peaceful. I hope you have a good day.




Prayers for Everywhere


Prayers for the volcanoes
that need garlands when they erupt
and prayers for the freeways
you never drive them the same twice,
prayers for the buds
that look like babies’ faces
as they open next week and for the blossoms
opening their soft legs to bees.


Prayers for everything the soul
must reluctantly or passionately kiss:
rain-running gutters,
a pebble in the shoe,
the silt gritty on your ocean-washed lips.


Because what is a prayer
but a laugh that can’t be formed
in letters, but only heard
in that place that, praised, lights up.
So prayers for everywhere
that needs them,


Prayers for the worms washed out
of the grass onto driveways,
prayers to step over as they swim
because you can’t pick them up
without damage. So much
of the heart can only be helped
without direct touching.


Prayers for everyone
in the throngs who need well-wishes
to suck on in their sleep
like giant glowing lollipops.
Prayers going to every restless sleeper
on this earth who needs a cool hand on the brow.
Prayers for their own sake,
prayers as beautiful as dolphins
leaping and twisting, prayers
freed from gravity’s pull
to fly glistening into the air.



Rachel Dacus is the author of Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama. Her poetry collections are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau, and the spoken word CD A God You Can Dance. Her writing has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Drunken Boat, Prairie Schooner, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many other journals. It has appeared in many anthologies, including Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English (ed. Agha Shaid Ali). She’s currently at work on a time travel novel involving the great Baroque sculptor, Gianlorenzo Bernini.