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The original fidget. These were
made in Nafplio, where old men
work them on benches in the square
or ranged along the busy harbor.

Not meant for prayer, unless
obsessive thoughts are a kind of prayer,
unutterable as the groans the spirit
offers on our behalf.

Most of my prayers are uttered—
in my mind, if not aloud—loquacious
lists of things I wish, my concerns
rarely rising past propinquity.

Saints, on the other hand, speak
of prayer as silence in which they hear
God or the silence of God,
their minds quiet and smooth as the beads.

For them the cares of the world,
like ropes tethering a balloon,
have been cast off. Spirit-filled,
their souls rise toward heaven.

Wooden beads strung on a loop.
The trick is to balance them
between middle and index fingers,
flip and switch, flip and switch,

faster than thought. Like worry
these beads make nothing happen,
a careless habit, as if the hand
knows more than mind or mouth.

Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

Eric Potter

Eric Potter is a professor of English at Grove City College (PA) where he teaches courses in poetry and American literature. His poems have appeared in such journals as 32 PoemsFirst Things, The Christian Century, and The Midwest Quarterly. He has published two chapbooks and a full-length collection, Things Not Seen (2015).