“Short Prayer” by Michelle Olney

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel by Eugene Delacroix, 1861

I unearth the grey siddur
given me as a child.

I creak its cover open
to the short prayer for healing.
Ayl na, refa na la.

I do not need a prayer book
to recall this meager necklace of words,

nor your body in reach to feel the hollow
severity of your frame.

The spine balances in my hand.
I know you will not be healed.

I know you will not be healed because
you lean into your illness

as one does a strong wind: carelessly.
Death accelerates toward you.  Listen.

My prayer is a means of talking to you.
I read the words to myself.
Ayl na, refa na la.



Michelle Olney studied Creative Writing at Brandeis University, where she received the American Poets Honorary Prize (2009). She was recently hired as Poetry Editor for the speculative genre magazine Isotropic Fiction. She lives and works in Portland, ME.

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