I got this month’s poem of the month from Mama:Monk’s blog. I read her posts because of the poetry it contains, because she’s Jason Boyett‘s sister, and because it’s very refreshing to read about her struggles to meet with God in her daily life. Seriously, I often wish I was half as spiritual as she is, or at least as committed to making this religion thing work. And that’s also why I chose this poem. Because even though it might make my life easier, I can’t let go of God and church. To stay with the wonderful imagery of this poem, the phone keeps ringing. And when I’m very lucky, I get burned by godfire I’m not sure exists.
by Jeanne Murray Walker
In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International Convention of Atheists, 1929
Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts
outside to the yard and question the sky,
longing to have the fight settled, thinking
I can’t go on like this, and finally I say
all right, it is improbable, all right, there
is no God. And then as if I’m focusing
a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.
It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t there
that makes the emptiness flare like a forest fire
until I have to spend the afternoon dragging
the hose to put the smoldering thing out.
Even on an ordinary day when a friend calls,
tells me they’ve found melanoma,
complains that the hospital is cold, I say God.
God, I say as my heart turns inside out.
Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,
wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,
and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire
again, which—though they say it doesn’t
exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.
Oh, we have only so many words to think with.
Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s
a phone, maybe. You know you didn’t order a phone,
but there it is. It rings. You don’t know who it could be.
You don’t want to talk, so you pull out
the plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammer
till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbery
metal bits. It rings again. You pick it up
and a voice you love whispers hello.