The Weight of Prayer

I’m excited to announce that my poem The Weight of Prayer has been published by The Roanoke Review, a literary journal that was founded by a Pulitzer Prize winner and one of his students; a down-to-earth journal that publishes writers with no previous writing credits as well as well-known writers.

The Roanoke Review editors asked me to write a little bit about the inspiration behind this poem.

I was inspired to write The Weight of Prayer after visiting a medieval parish church in Great Tew, Oxfordshire. A monochrome fresco of The Passion Cycle decorates a wall with its red ochre cautionary tale. I’ve always been intrigued by depictions of souls in artwork; on the facades of Gothic cathedrals, in illuminated manuscripts, and religious artwork. The souls are shown naked – reduced to the size of dolls – and cradled in a white cloth as they are rendered up to St. Michael’s scales for judgement. I’m fascinated by the idea that they have been awaiting judgement on the church wall for over a thousand years, and now, after so much forbearance, their souls are beginning to flake off the wall. I wanted to write about those souls, to give them a resting place in my poem once the scales fall from the fresco and heaven becomes impenetrable for the miserable dead of Great Tew.

The Weight of Prayer 

After eight hundred years, a fresco
of the passion cycle created for illiterate

believers still spins its cautionary tale.
Above the flaking sanguine tableau

St. Michael weighs parishioners’ sins.
Will it be hell mouth or heaven? Souls

share one skin – lime plaster and sienna
don’t discriminate.

[Read more at the Roanoke Review]

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. The Editor says:

    What a wonderful idea to give the Souls a resting place in your poem! The inspiration and the poem are equally beautiful… In fact they are each made more beautiful by the other.

    Like

    1. Jalina Mhyana says:

      Thank you! I wondered whether a brief explanation helped or hindered the poem – I’m delighted that you enjoyed the juxtaposition!

      Like

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