Prayer to the Pacific by Leslie Marmon Silko: Summary and Critical Analysis

The poem Prayer to the Pacific by Leslie Marmon Silko on the surface level describes the poets visit to the Pacific Ocean. But if viewed from the background of Native-American culture, the poem is of cultural importance. It tells us about a ritualistic visit, ritual performance as a myth of origin of Laguna Indians.

Leslie M. Silko (Born in 1948)

The poet narrates her visit to the ocean from her south-west home. She engages in the performance of ritual kneeling down before the Pacific Ocean. The image that she creates is that of a person who is involved in religious worshipping and religious offerings. This image gives us a clue to the importance of the Pacific Ocean in Native American culture. It is reinforced when the poet associates the myth of origin with the ocean. While, telling the myth of origin Silko evokes the oral tradition of storytelling of Native American culture. This myth is handed over to her by ancestors. According to the myth some “thirty thousand years ago” the Laguna Indians had arrived America from China on the back of “sea turtles”. When the poet alludes that mythical version, she establishes a kinship between her and turtle (“Grandfather Turtle”).

This myth of origin is important, because it is related to the existence, culture and survival of Native Americans. Pacific Ocean as a Source of Origin connects Laguna Indians with the nature. Moreover, it gives dynamism to Laguna culture. This dynamism of culture is imported by the language and the form of the poem too. The language is easy flowing like the water of the sea. The typography of the poem suggest wave and currents of the water. The undercurrent of the water is the dynamism of the ocean which can be transferred to the dynamism of Laguna culture.

The poem in the course of telling the myth evokes a belief inherent in the culture of Laguna Indians. It is believed that because of swimming of the turtle to the west the rain clouds drift from the west. The poet takes the rain as a gift of the ocean. Rain here is a symbol of fertility which makes livelihood and survival possible. The survival of Laguna Indians related to the ocean can be found when the poet says “I carry back the ocean’ to suck…. Here the word “suck” is related to survival. It implies the survival of a child sucking the breast of his/her mother. In this sense the poet creates an image of the mother in the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, the line of demarcation between past and present is blurred by the use of world “blue” “pale” and “gray”. These words imply the passing of time of which, the poet is aware of looking at the water of color change.

Cite this Page!

Sharma, Kedar N. "Prayer to the Pacific by Leslie Marmon Silko: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 12 Nov. 2013,

Related Topic

Leslie Marmon Silko: Biography