White Heron by John Ciardi, 1958
What lifts the heron leaning on the air
I praise without a name. A crouch, a flare,
a long stroke through the cumulus of trees,
a shaped thought at the sky- then gone. O rare!
Saint Francis, being happiest on his knees,
would have cried Father! Cry anything you please
But praise. By any name or none. But praise
the white original burst that lights
the heron on his two soft kissing kites.
When saints praise heaven lit by doves and rays,
I sit by pond scums till the air recites
It's heron back. And doubt all else. But praise.
commentary: this poem brings to light the importance of language. If you say “praise God” then it links to the Christian version of God (in the US anyway) which is dead or meaningless to me. By praising without a name it opens up the possibility for an agnostic to have praise. Is praising too close to worshipping? If so then gratitude could be substituted for praise.