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Pádraig Ó Tuama

Birthday Prayer

Because something about a hope I had that things could get easier.

Because something about age making wisdom. 


Because my mind’s got sharper, not wiser. 

Because I never expected to be tired all the time.


Because everything is in everything, and while some things change 

some things don’t, and everything is still inside the everything. 


Because the curtains hang in the same way they did last year

and the light finds its way round the edges and wakes my lover, not me. 


Because there is still that cup with the chip, the abandoned bike, 

the whetstone for the knives, the dent in the wall from when it missed, 


the memory of shaking in my bones, the checking-in early, 

the wasting of time, and the way I’ve lost all hope in hope.


Because I’ve not closed my eyes to pray in years. 

It isn’t that I don’t believe, it’s that it hurts. So I pray with my eyes open.


Because it’s taken a year to write this prayer. Because thirty was easy 

but forty shocked me — a knife inside the ear — and all I hear is: 


nothing is changing and everything’s getting older, and, 

everything is dying and anyway, what’s the fucking point?


Because I keep on dreaming about a day that never ends:

the glare of light. And prayer frightens me more and more.


So I prop my eyes open with toothpicks, whiskey, writing, paper, porn, poems, 

blades, sand and sweat, prayers to wake the light that does not wake me.


Wake me.


Pádraig Ó Tuama is the host of On Being’s Poetry Unbound — a podcast that has gained over 10 million downloads since its start in 2020 — and also the author of Poetry Unbound; 50 Poems to Open Your Life. Profiled by The New Yorker, published in Poetry Ireland, The Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review and many others, he brings interests in conflict, language, religion and power to his work. His most recent collection is Feed the Beast (Broken Sleep Books, 2022).

Photo credit: David Pugh

Bear Review


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