Dan Bellm





Counting

What
if I
this moment
were only prayer, 
not a thought or word
of one, nor even an
intention; sunlight on grass,
nothing of itself but what it
shows, or a bird that has called out, filled
with purest hearing; well, I have the prayers
in the book, and once again I have lost my
place, dreaming even past the prayer that calls on me
to listen up; must I start it all over, and where
would I begin; how far into the past would I unwind,					
how far would a self have to cast itself out before it flew
beyond its reaches, to live, instead of being only lived in;
oh it’s like asking to stop breathing; in the time I’ve spent worrying
the sun turned all to shadow, it began to rain, the scent of the mown grass			
lifted into the trees, and now the light and shade have returned to their places
a little further on, in accordance with the number of moments that have passed.
Rabbi Hiyyah, called the Great, once said, I have never in my life prayed with intention.
One time I tried to intend, but only wondered in my heart whether I would be received
before the king, or sent into exile. How was I to know? This, of course, started the other
rabbis talking; Rabbi Samuel admitted, with a shrug, I have been counting chickens; Rabbi
Bun the son of Hiyyah said, I have been counting the layers of stone in the wall, and his eyes lit up 
with this woeful confession; Rabbi Mattaniah sighed, since there is always one who feels responsible
for the prayers of all the rest, Then let there be blessings on our heads, for I have noticed that whenever we come
to the last of the benedictions, at which we are commanded to bow down, our heads are bowed of their own accord.
But look, I must have nodded off again, enumerating, losing track of what I meant to praise, drool on my shirt, or
else have had a dream, with none to interpret it; will You not look away from me awhile, as Job cried out, and let me be,
whilst I swallow my own spit? The rain has started falling again, even in the path of the sun, as if there’s no reason to
decide which will be first or last, and a great round of song is circling among the uppermost branches of the spruces. Return to
me, O God, and I’ll return, letting the day begin again even if it’s halfway gone, extolling the One who removes the sleep from 
my eyes, the slumber from my eyelids, and gives the rooster discernment to tell day from night; let me count the threads of You that I might tug at,
complicated by being many, simple by being one, and if not to arrive at wanting nothing, which is another desire, then to
yearn for what is given, including the dust and the ash, and the last moment You have counted up for me, wherefore I clap my hand unto my mouth.