Prayer to St Agnes

O holy St Agnes, cure me of metaphor!
Make me say exactly what I mean
Without trickery or recourse
To words that are not clear or clean.

O martyr and saint, let life be dull
And make our verses unadorned
And let next year’s poems be plainly full
Of signs that lessons have been learned.

The flowers grow, as appointed, from the soil
And do not paint the meadow with delight.
They wither or get picked, which serves to spoil
Our notion, so mistaken on first sight,

That they are sprightly, dancing in the breeze,
Then taking applause, their heads all bowed.
I swear, in all mention of flowers, these
Rich, false words will never be allowed.

In return, please open heaven’s gate
So I can see what really is
With no sweet terms to mask my fate
To live in true, unsweetened bliss.

Colm Tóibín