By conservative estimates, there are currently enough wrongfully convicted people in prison in the United States to fill a football stadium.
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Inside the house of prayer the ancient ones
rock slowly back and forth.
They have been praying since just after time began,
when the sun, new itself, rose on the first day
after humans were created. Even way back then
there were fervent wishes. The path to the house
is worn and rutted. Outside the barn
are two silos full of prayers,
a satellite dish with channels upon channels
for sending and receiving.
Bales of old prayers bank the foundation for winter.
Over time the broken and the restless make pilgrimages,
each with their own hearts to pray for.
Inside it is nearly silent, except for the faint
sound of lips moving and an occasional moan
of sorrow or remembrance.
And then there are the prayers
that get jumbled, like leaving the right phone message
on the wrong answering machine,
only you don’t know it and can’t take it back.
This is what has happened throughout time.
It gives us what sympathy we have.
Don’t search for your own prayer
with your name sewn in the back.
Don’t try to find the pure thought
that danced from your lips.
Think of the person who wanted what you’ve gotten.
Think of healthy children, plentiful food.
Think of a man in another country,
who can finally weep,
who is watching the sun rise
on the only day there is.
In the house of thanksgiving
I have seen the angels late at night,
the incandescent light still on downstairs.
They are writing psalms with quills
they pull from their wings.
They toss crumpled drafts into the wood stove
and smoke rises from the chimney,
still holding the shape of the words,
then feathers out into a gray landscape.
The soot makes a film on the shrubs.
These angels sing their songs of praise
until they have moved past irony
into full-on love, and kiss one another
with passion, and become like children
at a family gathering,
running from room to joyous room
in the circle of downstairs.
If I watch them all night, at dawn
I see the birch branches shaking in lavender light
like fine capillaries where this world flows into the next,
and if I step outside my own house
I can hear them laughing
and hear the heavy thud
of their footsteps in prayer.