About a decade ago, I went through a dark period, in which my body was wracked with pain, and nothing seemed to calm my nerves. I cast about for prayers, for words that might come to balm my suffering. I tried writing my own prayers, finding the ones received from my religious education to be like locked doors, or rooms without windows. It may have been my state as much as the prayers. This poem was inspired by the Du'a of Light, a Muslim prayer. In it, I hear the Hebrew Psalms, Quaker prayers ("holding you in the Light"), the Hindu namaste (sometimes translated as "the Light in me"), the Kabbalah, Arseny Tarkovky's candle in "I Burned at the Feast" --what tradition doesn't turn to light as metaphor or metonym? I recited it in my office at John Carroll, where the gray clouded light coming through an elevated window offered a softness on that April afternoon.
Philip Metres has written numerous books, including Shrapnel Maps, Sand Opera, and The Sound of Listening. Awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and Lannan Foundations, and three Arab American Book Awards, Metres is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University.