Songs of Praise

Derek Mahon

Tonight, their simple church grown glamorous,
The proud parishioners of the outlying parts
Lift up their hymn-books and their hearts
To please the outside-broadcast cameras.
The darkness deepens; day draws to a close;
A well-bred sixth-former yawns with her nose.

Outside, the hymn dies among rocks and dunes.
Conflicting rhythms of the incurious sea,
Not even contemptuous of these tiny tunes,
Take over where our thin ascriptions fail.
Down there the silence of the laboratory,
Trombone dispatches of the beleaguered whale.

Star death sobs in the voice of a night bird.
Will there be no one to remember us
When our faint orisons are no longer heard
And the last whales are heaps of cindery dust?
Not us, nor our naive and intricate arts;
So sing from the abdomen. Lift up your hearts.