Poetry | June 23, 2021


Cardinal in tree with green background
Photo by Jim Miner

When prayer allows itself to be exploited for purposes which are beneath itself, then it becomes strictly impure.”
—Thomas Merton

The air thick, the evening soft,
a flash of red amidst green: a cardinal
flies past the porch posts and my toes resting
in a hammock, content, while my prayers
circle in eddies stuck between rocks without
a freeing sluice. I wonder: where is the key

to unclose the anxious clasp, the key
to free me from the silken, soft
and sticky web of worries without
beginning, without end. My cardinal
sin: too much rumination in my prayers,
pettiness piled like rubble resting

in heaps, too heavy to hoist, resting
and weighing me down whimpering. The key?
The shovel to unearth deeper prayers,
to free my soul to soar on soft,
strong wings? I hear the cardinal’s
shrill song, notes articulated without
shame or second thoughts, pure cries without

expectation. I remain stuck, resting
yet restive. Not roused by the cardinal’s
song nor moved to follow his flight. The key
to freedom foiled by my pride. Soft
submission to silence, prayers

surfacing without sound, prayers
emerging without agenda, without
words, allow worries to be softly
spooned up and set aside, heat reduced. Rest
now and heal. The overwrought need key
disciplines to be observed, cardinal

rules to be followed. Quiet! The cardinal
glides past my hammock and beckons my prayers
to fly into the sky. The key
is letting this harbinger without
worry carry me to rest,
in the evening air—thick and soft.

My soul is resting now—still and without
concern. Prayers released, weight lifted. The key
found in the soft dusk flight of a cardinal.

Debbie Eisenbise, interim congregational life pastor at Goshen (Ind.) City Church of the Brethren, is a writer, spiritual director, and instructor.