In Brief

Prayer Utter North by Robert Vivian

True utter north, compass of my heart and needle pointing northward, the north of my dreams and the north of my waking

True utter north, compass of my heart and needle pointing northward, the north of my dreams and the north of my waking, pure utter north and forest trees swaying in the wind, northern lights and northern stars and shining streams whose braids go on forever, vast utter north silent as the first snow and the last, the howling of coyotes and clef notes of deer tracks in the snow, brimming utter north tipping over with stars who has taught me emptiness and silence and the deep listening of tress, headlong yearning of north where I go to be healed, where I haul my brokenness and my sorrow, bright utter north filling this page and my breathing, unknowable utter north and all of its mysteries, all of its buds blossoming in deep secret darkness yet unto spring, bird utter north and all migration and yearning and how I turn to thee as radial human flower, how I ache for thee even now and lonely utter north where I venture and where I pray alone though I feel the ancestors watching and waiting and listening, prayer utter north and magical trout I stalk like a starving man in the cold, cold river, spirit creature of miraculous bursting colors vanishing once more though I will never forget you, never stop thanking you, dawn utter north and the four directions, the four seasons and north do I sing and north do I careen, north do I river, blank utter north and the peace of a lilac bush months away from blooming, poem utter north and the cold waters that can kill you, sentence utter north and hooks in the glove compartment yet to be tied, song utter north and every utterance, every eagle and every crow, roadkill utter north and those who would scavenge and who would salvage, turkey vulture and noble crow again and every feast macabre, bright moon utter north and every phase and phrase, moons of my grandfathers’ fingernails ravaged by fate on the deck long ago, book utter north and every footstep in the woods, delirious utter north come spring and summer when the days are long and glorious and the mayflies hatch in a blizzard of bright dying, resurrection utter north and crucifixions and the perseverance of cold hands, shelf ice one must crawl across on all fours like any surviving animal, cruel utter north and the blind crushing force of ice and winter again come suddenly, tender utter north when the lilacs bloom at last and summon the butterflies from every corner of this earth, ecstatic utter north when the fish rise after rain and I stand among them quaking with gratitude, with the awe and knowing that time and dying cannot touch, eternal utter north that speaks these words with reverence and with pity, blessed utter north where I go to be whole and brave again, where I drink long and longingly of the endless river that brings me to my knees for ever after, as the world whispers come follow and follow, here we are spirit clear as breathing the sky that is our vast and teeming name.


Robert Vivian
Robert Vivian

Robert Vivian is the author of The Tall Grass Trilogy, Water And Abandon and two meditative essay collections, Cold Snap As Yearning and The Least Cricket Of Evening. His first poetry book is called Mystery My Country—and he’s co-written a second called Traversings with the poet Richard Jackson. He teaches at Alma College and as a core faculty member at The Vermont College Of Fine Arts.

Robert has a new book of dervish essays called Immortal Soft-Spoken which was published this June by Awst Press.