poetry// tahajjud (taking measurements)

Golden Shovel after Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning”

In the last third, there is no one to speak to but You,
and still, my mouth is unable to perform what I was
to do. Prayer, an oasis in the midst of the nighttime desert / If only
I was brave enough to resist sleep, to climb over my shame,
heavy cloak that I cannot roll out from under / my
body is no match for my monstrous ego. The depths of regret sink me
and lower / fleeting is time and all of its promise, weaker am I than
my ancestors. I do not know how they did this, was
re no chaos inside themselves? How, as only humans and not

I do not know what happened to me but I have
forgotten how to crawl to water, how to stay
in desperation, how to see my own thin-boned and
famished soul / and feed it. This bed is a death bed, a
and lonely prison (but it feels nothing like one). I recall the
nocence of childhood, the fragility of my unripened faith,
sanctity of the night, the friendliness of God. Such
and blistering and bleeding comes with aging / a violent

Is this to be it, me trapped in a soliloquy of mourning? Have
I been condemned to a life of bedridden lamentation, the
in my own tragedy? Who is to blame for the withering but me?
large is the longing / too harrowing is the loss / too
is the journey back I fear I would not make it. What I wouldn’t give for a
full of earth, forehead pressed into the nighttime! To lower my head
and to feel myself lifted higher! To breathe in the perfume of Hope
large, massive gulps. Each ayah, a gentle salve on the wounds of my

How to wake from slumber I do not know. How to rise from beneath your
own cowardice, and face your Maker, I do not know. Like mammouths,
the words are lodged in me, fossilized in enormous majesty,
out in frozen syllables. I dig and dig, looking for something, not
but a feeling, an ancient and weathered one. Where is she, that tender,
infant within me? Where is it, that still green, resilient yearning
God’s mercy? What hangs in the balance / a solemn survivor of the

(The Golden Shovel poetic form was created by Terrence Hayes. The form utilizes a line or stanza or entire poem written by someone else and uses each word in its ordering as the ending of a new line of poetry. This poem was created using the third stanza of Maya Angelou’s “On The Pulse of Morning” inaugural poem from 1993.)

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