Philip Metres

The Prayer for Deliverance

Deliver us, Lord, from every
unveiling, every version

of verity. Deliver us in the name
of this moment, as it is

in the yes, is now in the ears
& shall ever over years.

Deliver us to the word, heavy
& lissome as a body

drawn in motion. O flight
of sound, impossible light,

for my mouth to praise & be
pried open & for my tongue

loosed to taste & mine again
for the first time.



The Thinker on the Ruptured Ground outside the Museum of Art


I have to chisel the cliché right out
of my head to see his face, shuttered,

resting on unclosed fist. Infantile,
he sucks on a knuckle, the other hand

drapes over his knee, the lax palm open
downward yet heavy as grief. His back

strains, some invisible carapace
slowly crushing him. His equine legs arch

as if gripping flanks of a headlong
horse. But why, below his massive calves,

do shreds of bronze muscle jut, shrapnel of
no toes, no feet to stand on no ground?


After Kent State, outside the museum,
a midnight flash. From its stone pedestal

the huge statue thrown—its forehead planted
in the soggy ground, its bronze anus

and feet flung the four directions, pieces
stabbing a door some ninety feet away,

windows shattered to sockets. Could you kill
a statue, and what did it stand for—this

brooding above the Gates of Hell, this mind
so folded in itself it does not see—

in the turbulent one who sculpted
art whose beauty was only to explode?


In the photo, two women stand, backs
facing us, arms stretched straight above their heads

bowed to something still outside the frame. Hands
touch its ponderous calves, as if to hold

the bronze statue aloft, as if to heal
would need the outward gaze turned in, something

like prayer, how I was taught as a child
to quiet, close my eyes to the bright world

in order to praise it, just to give thanks
for where I stood, whatever broken thing

I was, and whatever fell to my hands
I’d open. Circling the bronze this morning,


I trace the contours of detonation,
tongues of flame still lapping the thinker’s feet

the bomber made visible. We crumble
in pondering, how it turns us to stone

the world outside our thinking. Nothing
can cast its pallor into that black cave.

Sun against white marble, white marble
rising. I carry its flares in my sight,

dodging potholes where an odd man sprawls,
arguing with himself to quiet

the hurt chorus hijacking his head,
his torn mouth, fists. Faces me. Blooms his palm.



Philip Metres is the author of ten books, including Shrapnel Maps (forthcoming 2020), The Sound of Listening (essays, 2018), Sand Opera (poems, 2015), Pictures at an Exhibition (poems, 2016), I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (translations 2015), and others. His work has garnered a Lannan fellowship, two NEAs, six Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Hunt Prize, the Beatrice Hawley Award, two Arab American Book Awards, the Watson Fellowship, the Creative Workforce Fellowship, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. He is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University.