18 pages 36 minutes read

Joy Harjo

This Morning I Pray for My Enemies

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2015

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Literary Devices

Form and Meter

A single, orderly block of text, “This Morning I Pray for My Enemies” is written without distinctive meter, rhyme, or formal structure. Presented in one stanza, Harjo’s nine lines each stand on their own as questions or statements. There is some variation of line length, with two lines standing out as shorter: the initial question and the description of the heart seeing and knowing everything (Line 6). The final line is unique in length, as well as being one of only two lines that contain two clauses connected by a comma. Overall, the poem is deceptively arranged: It appears to be organized or arranged somehow to achieve a structure, but actually resists containment at every turn.


The punctuation in “This Morning I Pray for My Enemies” is an interesting aspect of the poem’s structure, frequently altering the meaning of the text in specific ways. The rhetorical question posed in the first sentence sets up the remainder of the poem; the question mark is almost an invitation to the reader to continue forward. After the initial query, the remaining lines each end in a period. Though in some cases this kind of terse, line-ending punctuation could read as creating a staccato effect or building urgency, in Harjo’s poem, the periods serve to slow the reader and cause them to take thoughtful pause after each line.