The Creatures’ Choir | Carmen Bernos De Gasztold #poetry

Last month I feature a few of the prayer/poems from Carmen Bernos de Gasztold’s collection called Prayers From the Ark. These simple French poems had been rediscovered by Rumer Godden and then translated into English during the 1960’s.

The second collection of poems, The Creatures’ Choir (1965), errs more on the side of poetry than prayers. In Prayers From the Ark, the various animals plea with God for personal things like slugs, a saucer of milk, and in the case of The Ox, more time (see below).

The 25 poems in The Creatures’ Choir include The Lion, The Lamb, The Centipede, The Snail, The Starfish, The Ladybird, The Toad, The Mole, The Spider, The Fly, The Gnat, The Gazelle, The Peacock, The Seagull and The Oyster. I’ve included two below.

The Seagull.
A hole in the cliffs
is my nest but the sea calls me,
and I cradle my dreams
in the hollows of the waves.
The roll of Your ocean
is with me in the sky,
where I swing
on one wing, then the other,
and plummet
like a stone
on the living flash
of a fish.
does my poignant cry
echo the endless travail
that beats on Your shore?
I am the bird
like salt,
grey and white,
a bitter tang
that does not fade;
and the ships
outward bound
watch me out of sight,
a little handkerchief
waving goodbye.
In the restlessness of my kingdom,
let the storm spare me.
The Oyster.
Moist, glaucous,
in my mother-of-pearl house,
its door tightly shut
against intruders,
I drink in a dream from the sea:
Oh, let an iridescent pearl--
a milky dawn,
a faerie sheen--
find its tints in the heart of my life.
Then if, slowly,
day by day,
this mysterious seed
grows more perfect,
for my joy
and Your glory,
nothing else will matter.
If it must be, I shall die
to let it reach its fullest splendour,
shining--only for You,
at the bottom of the sea.

The Prayer of the Ox.

Dear God,
Give me time.
Humans are always so driven!
Make them understand that I can never hurry.
Give me time to eat.
Give me time to plod.
Give me time to sleep.
Give me time to think.


This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.

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