For Acedia


Thomas Aquinas prescribed fervent prayer,
and I do pray, but, oddly, a bird has been
my best medicine when I find myself shrunken
and absent, as I do each year as the anniversary
of my son’s death approaches. And so I turn again
to this: a dipper I watched in Zion’s Virgin River.
It walked right into the rushing water that threaded
the eye of the canyon and then, without pausing,
walked along the bottom of the river, that brown bird
putting on a Joseph coat, its feathers wearing
a thin silvery film of air bubbles, the water an amber,
pale-green shade of tree-filtered light.
Funneled between the canyon walls, the sun
fell like a shaft of apocalyptic dazzle
as the stout, short-tailed, short-winged dipper—
its body so perfectly made for what it was doing—
walked quietly inside the water, as if the tumble
of currents pressing against it had no power,
or as if the bird had found a pond of quiet thought
at the river bottom. And how casually the dipper
popped back to the surface, bobbing and dipping
in the shallower water, until it climbed out
onto a rock, and began to sing—a clear, liquid song
that had a watery airiness I can still hear
and that helps me think of my son,
who must have been four or five at the time,
and sat along the riverbank dipping his bare feet
in the cold, faithful moving rush of water.

Robert Cording taught English and creative writing at College of the Holy Cross for thirty-eight years. He has published ten collections of poems, the latest of which is In the Unwalled City. He has been awarded two NEA fellowships in poetry and two Pushcart Prizes.

[Purchase Issue 25 here.]

For Acedia

Related Posts

picture of a bible opened up

February 2024 Poetry Feature

There was tear gas deployed without a tear. There were / rubber bullets fired from weapons that also fire lethal rounds. There were / armored vehicles steering through the streets of the capital that stars our maps. // What we saw was only new to the people it was new to.

Headshot of Anne Pierson Wiese

Sharp Shadows

On our kitchen wall at a certain time / of year appeared what we called the sharp / shadows. / A slant of western light found / its way through the brown moult of fire / escape hanging on to our Brooklyn rental / building for dear life and etched replicas / of everything

box with art on the inside

The Most-Read Pieces of 2023

As our new year of publishing and programming picks up speed, we at The Common wanted to reflect on the pieces that made last year such a great one! We published over 200 pieces online and in print in 2023. Below, you can browse a list of the six most-read pieces of 2023 to see which stories, essays, and poems left an impact on readers.