Psalm by Richard Chess


Somewhere a man is writing a psalm.
Maybe it’s late, his child
sleeping under dreams,
his wife coughing, shivering, spitting,
touching a clock on the bedside table.
Let’s say they have lived on just enough
hope for many years, let’s say one day
God’s not a bad idea.

Maybe the man fixes cars
for a living, I don’t know,
I can’t ask him right now, maybe
he assists a teacher in the local school,
maybe he’s a prosecutor, a defender.
I don’t want to disturb him; he’s earned
this solitude, he’ll pay for it.

He is lucky, he thinks
as he waits at the table, late at night,
for the next verse
of the psalm he composing.
Just before worming under the covers,
his son laid out tomorrow’s uniform.
His wife, before the syrup
quieted her, scribbled a note
to herself. She’s certain
the floor will be there at dawn
when her feet fall from bed.

The psalm? I can’t read it
from here, it’s cupped in this hand.
Let it be a psalm of praise,
praise the roof that keeps them
dry, praise the farmer, picket, packager,
shipper, stocker, checker, bagger, wife-
the network by which he is fed,
praise the doctor who examines
and assures him, the father, husband,
worker, worrier, that it’s nothing,
praise the sleeplessness that gives him
those quiet hours, this yellow pad,
and a fan to draw relief into the August house.

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