Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer

utters itself. So, a woman will lift

her head from the sieve of her hands and stare

at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.


Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth

enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;

then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth

in the distant Latin chanting of a train.


Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales

console the lodger looking out across

a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls

a child’s name as though they named their loss.


Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer –

Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.



Carol Ann Duffy

Mean Time

Anvil 1993