Some Ancient Prayer in Aramaic

Amen to the tremble in my father’s fingers

when he slides a knife across a fresh-cooked thing.

Amen to my mother. She is versed 

in the litanies of the body, unsanctified, 

the brief temple taken down, another 

stone removed each day. Amen too to the city, 

the stooped shoulders of its bridges, 

concrete cragged as skin. Amen to modernity 

refusing the touch of a mourner—that soft-gestured 

consolation is the feather-brush of wings. 

I pull the black cloth from a mirror, Amen. 

I wash my dusty hands. Amen to my face 

with its mouth crushed like a paper napkin 

left beside a plate of rounded food, the hard-cooked egg, 

the lentils staring like a dish of eyes. 

And let me say Amen to the words 

that will not lessen the losses of parents 

or cities, governments, whatever power 

once loomed above my head.

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Jehanne Dubrow

Jehanne Dubrow is the author of nine poetry collections and three books of nonfiction, including most recently Exhibitions: Essays on Art & Atrocity (University of New Mexico Press, 2023). She is a professor of creative writing at the University of North Texas. 

Photo credit: Cedric Terrell


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