A Startling Keepsake of a Poem–And A Prayer

A Startling Keepsake of a Poem–And A Prayer

It was my turn to lead the devotion at the monthly deacon’s meeting at my church, so I turned to the reliably inspiring poetry of Mary Oliver. I found this one:

Alligator Poem

I knelt down

at the edge of the water,

and if the white birds standing

in the tops of the trees whistled any warning,

I didn’t understand.

I drank up to the very moment it came

crashing toward me,

its tail flailing

like a bundle of swords,

slashing the grass,

and the inside of its cradle-shaped mouth


and rimmed with teeth—

and that’s how I almost died

of foolishness

in beautiful Florida.

But I didn’t.

I leaped aside, and fell,

and it streamed past me, crushing everything in its path

as it swept down to the water

and threw itself in,

and, in the end,

this isn’t a poem about foolishness

but about how I rose from the ground

and saw the world as if for the second time,

the way it really is.

The water, that circle of shattered glass,

healed itself with a slow whisper

and lay back

with the back-lit light of polished steel,

and the birds, in the endless waterfalls of the trees,

shook open the snowy pleats of their wings, and drifted away,

while, for a keepsake, and to steady myself,

I reached out,

I picked the wild flowers from the grass around me—

blue stars

and blood-red trumpets

on long green stems—

for hours in my trembling hands they glittered

like fire.



This poem inspired me to pray this prayer:

Dear loving, watchful God, may you be the alligator who wakes us up. May your spirit crash through the flora of our complacency and remind us to be vibrantly alive. May we be startled into falling back into your embrace…and…then…pushed back into our lives, with a new awakening, a new vision.



1 Comment

  1. Robbie King says:

    Beautiful, Jerry. Thanks for sharing, both the poem and your prayer. Blessings, Robbie

    Robbie King robbiewhaleyking@gmail.com

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