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This poem is taken from PN Review 93, Volume 20 Number 1, September - October 1993.

Three Poems Iain Crichton Smith

An Old Man Praying
In the middle of the night I hear you pray
'God be with me, soon it will be time.'
And then the clock begins its crystal chime.

Provenance of the Bible and its power!
Even so far from home you're on the rack.
The day is vain and then the night is black,

starless, without compass. 'I have sinned'
Inside your head the scarlet whores patrol.
If only light could break, and you were Paul,

self-confident and literate. Christ was once
a boy like you, fishing for his eels.
Now he hangs from wood by his tanned heels.

The box must lock us, poisonous, corrupt.
Not charitable works can save us now,
not neighbours' fields that we in mercy ploughed.

Listen, the birds begin. Is that a cat
screeching from the shrubbery? The owl

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