Navigation Menu+

Prayer for Joy by Stuart Kestenbaum

Posted on Jul 8, 2016 by

A_Apple_Pie,_J (1)

I love that Kestenbaum’s poem begins with a question: What was it we wanted to say anyhow?

There’s so much we could say, and perhaps there’s something ready to emerge—be spoken—but what was it exactly?

What word or string of words out of all the ones we’ve learned?

There’s so often some external condition to consider—to remind us—something happening in the world—in the case of this poem a bowl of alphabet soup! And the letter J floating up the surface—that letter so often-neglected and thus surprising—

Kestenbaum writes:

The ‘j’, a letter that might be

great for Scrabble, but not really

used for much else, unless

we need to jump for joy,

and then all of a sudden

it’s there and ready to

help us soar and to open up

our hearts at the same time . . .

Oh, letter J. All of a sudden—there—there you are—ready to help us soar and open up—reminding us—what word was it? Jump? Joy? And the two coming together becoming more than either—soaring and opening—both at the same time.

Kestenbaum continues:

this simple line with a curved bottom,

an upside down cane that helps

us walk in a new way into this

forest of language . . .

A forest of language—and with so many possibilities—so many things we could say to each other.

So many words we could write. Beginning with such simple lines and curves.

Now what is it we truly want to say?


A full text of the poem can be found at Poetry Foundation

The image is from A Apple Pie by Kate Greenway housed at the digital library of U. Penn. A book from my own childhood that I loved, each letter calling forth something new.