Scott Cairns: ‘To Himself’

Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the work of North American poet Scott Cairns whose journey from Baptist to Presbyterian to Orthodox finds voice in poetic word. I’ve been reading his Philokalia: new and selected poems and thought I’d post just a few poems from this fantastic work which really is well worth buying. Here’s his poem entitled ‘To Himself’.

When in scripture we first meet God,
apparently He is talking to Himself,
or to that portion in His midst
which He has only lately quit
to avail our occasion.

In prayer, therefore, we become
most like Him, speaking what no one
else, if not He, will attend.
A book I borrowed once taught me
how in the midst of attendant

 prayer comes a pause when The Addressed
requires nothing else to be said. Yes,
I witnessed once an emptying
like that; though what I saw was not
quite seen, of course. I suspected

 nonetheless a silent Other
silently regarding me as if He
still might speak, but speak as to Himself.
That was yesterday, or many
years ago, and if it profit

 anyone to imitate the terms
of that exchange, let the prior
gesture be extreme hollowing
of the throat, an inclination
to articulate the trouble

 of a word, a world thereafter.


  1. I’m a big fan of Cairns, and thus glad to see you’ve discovered him too, Jason. Philokalia is a great collection. I’ve know the book for a while, but I hadn’t slowed down over this poem yet. Thanks for drawing our attn. to it.



  2. A little credit here, dude. That’s my signed copy that my wife gave you permission to borrow while I was out. You’re welcome.


  3. Drew. Fair enough … credit where credit is due.

    O great Melanie who came down out of heaven, all blessing be upon thee for such generosity!

    Yeah… and thanks for the loan of the book. I’m loving it.


Comments welcome here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.