A Prayer for the Unflummoxed Beaver

The night maid embraces herself by Danielle Dooboo-Fortuné

For Hana Andronikova

so unmoved by the boat’s slow approach — the boat
drifting across the flat green acre of water; a prayer
for these acres of water which, in the soft light, seem firm;
the squirrels, however, are never taken in;
a prayer for the squirrels and their unknowable
but perfect paths; see how they run across
the twisting highway of cedars but never crash;
a prayer for the cedars and their dead knees rising
from the water like tombstones; a prayer for the cedar balls
that break when you touch them and stain
your fingers yellow, that release from their tiny bellies
the smell of old churches, of something holy;
a prayer returned to the holy alligators — you owe them
that at least, for just last night when you thought
of Hana Andronikova you asked them to pray
with you, knowing that their prayers are potent;
at night the grass is full of their red eyes; a prayer
for the grass which the alligators divide
in the shape of a never-ending S; you lean over
to pull some into the boat; in Burma
this is called Ka-Na-Paw, and can be cooked
with salt and oil; a prayer for the languages
we know this landscape by; for the French
as spoken by fat fishermen, the fat fishermen
who admit to the water — we all dying.
You understand? Savez? A prayer
for the dying that will come to all of us
but may it come soft as a boat drifting across the bayou.
May it find us unrattled and as unflummoxed as the beaver.

~ Kei Miller


Kei Miller was born in Jamaica. His first collection of short fiction, ‘The Fear of Stones’, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize in 2007. His first poetry collection, ‘Kingdom of Empty Bellies’, was published in March 2006 by Heaventree Press; his second, ‘There Is an Anger That Moves’, was published by Carcanet in October 2007. He is also the editor of Carcanet’s ‘New Caribbean Poetry: An Anthology’. He currently teaches Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. His latest publications are the Forward Prize-shortlisted ‘The Cartographer tries to map a way to Zion’ (Carcanet 2014), and ‘Writing down the vision: essays and visions’ (Peepal Tree Press 2013), which won the Bocas Literary Prize for non- fiction in 2014.