PoetryIssue 13 | September 2011

Prayer Boats

by Richard Schiffman

Ganges quits the range of endless snow here
at Hardwar, where foothills splay their toes
upon the plain, the river’s glacial milk
seethes. Prayer is a fleet of leaf boats
launched at dusk, to gongs, to bells and crackling
chants. Within those vegetable shells, beds of petal,
licks of flame—fireflies on the pitching stream.
Surely those fires will flicker out, surely
snuffed in river roil and run, in night
which rolls out and out its charcoal drapery.
Still we cast them on the waters, because fire
cannot remain for long with the one who lights it,
as a river cannot linger in the range of endless snow.
The heart, too, must launch itself at dusk, not because
it trusts its leaf, its flicker, or the somersaulting
flood. And not because it knows where it is headed.
Not because it dreams of a sea somewhere, a God
somewhere beyond the ocean of the night. The night
is all—the mother of us all. Still, there is something
that the night will never comprehend—the river
running through it to the morning’s
far shore.

About the author

A writer and former journalist for National Public Radio, Richard Schiffman is based in New York. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Poetry East, Southern Poetry Review, and many others. Read his Spiritual Poetry Portal

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok