In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International Convention of Atheists, 1929Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubtsoutside to the yard and question the sky,longing to have the fight settled, thinkingI can’t go on like this, and finally I sayall right, it is improbable, all right, thereis no God. And then as if I’m focusinga magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t therethat makes the emptiness flare like a forest fireuntil I have to spend the afternoon draggingthe 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 godfireagain, which—though they say it doesn’texist—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’sa 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 outthe plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammertill it bleeds springs and coils and clobberymetal bits. It rings again. You pick it upand a voice you love whispers hello.
by Jeanne Murray Walker, Source: Poetry (May 2004)
illustration by Corrie Haffly
My friend Aleah sent me this poem. It took her breath away when she first heard it, and it it did mine when I read it.