Authors and Poets
Authors and Poets

Photos used with permission from the Academy of American Poets

Last updated:
September 5, 2018
Lori M. Cameron, editor

Praying the Icons, Philip Kolin

Fall 2008, vol. 12, no. 2

A shawled old woman
With skin as wrinkled as a river
And eyes as blue as a virgin
Prays the icons, living

Inside her. Over centuries
Abandoned voices
Seize her tongue praying
In silent adoration.

The cold cathedral steps
Make her knees cry
Over the living graves
Her prayers have opened.

They speak in every
Dialect of tears
Recorded in pogroms
And purges

In the litanies of
Monk murders and
Unharvested children’s
Moans.

The czar is dead
We’ll drown
In a forest of blood.

Steel-hearted Stalin
Swallowed cities of families

He opened the windows to hell
For frozen Russia
Melting screams into

Whispers that leaven
With her prayers rising
To the vaults
Of the sanctuary

The soft red light
Next to the tabernacle
Tells her to stop
Going any farther

Into the mystery
Of suffering.

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