…poems I found on a WordPress.com site entitled
A Bright, Unequivocal Eye; Poems That Matter…
“The God Who”
It was the small gods we talked to
before words, though soon enough
we forgot, and sadly, that what dawn
or the shine of hips made the heart do
The god of a particular
slow bend in the river, his friend
god of the white boats swung around it,
gods of moderately impressive rocks,
of spots warm where someone was just sitting,
of the deep sharp scents of shoes, of sounds
whose direction is unclear, of silver linings:
they appreciated whatever small appreciations
came their way and, ignored,
were not so much vengeful
as doubtful in that early world,
where the workload, if it can be called that,
of their divinely inefficient bureaucracy,
left plenty of time to enjoy the specialties
of their fellows, god of just sitting around,
god of the nasty slider, of low-battery gleeps,
of wine that gets better by the glass,
the god (the high god!) of too excited to sleep.
Actually, with considerable power
over one thing, or a couple–a book maybe,
tennis, unusual salads–but only average
at, say, getting lovers or starting a car,
they were a lot like us. Distinctions, in fact,
were not rigidly maintained, it being proverbially
difficult to be sure you’re immortal
or that you’re not. There was intermarriage,
bargaining, and respectful confusion (once
language got going)
about what constituted worship
and what was just delighted
saying of the names of things,
which persists. So as for the god
of the squeak of clean hair,
of your hand out the car window
wind-lifted, of the small shades under hat brims
and not excluding
the banned gods of leaf-fires and tobacco,
oh and definitely including
she of the coffee-breath and fine cold hands
who says Sit down friend and let’s see,
let’s just see, and certainly
my other god, he of Least Resistance
who decrees what is going to happen anyway,
who listens only to prayers that end
Let all be as Thou will’st, who grants
only my wish to believe in him,
and with the possible exception only of the god of making a list
of all the other gods, who gets distracted and forgets so many
that suddenly the universe is His and only His,
In Shakespeare a lover turns into an ass
as you would expect. Others confuse
their consciences with ghosts and witches.
Old men throw everything away
when they panic and can’t feel their lives.
They pinch themselves, pierce themselves with twigs,
cliffs, lightning, to die–yes, finally–in glad pain.
You marry a woman youve never talked to,
a woman you thought was a boy.
Sixteen years go by as a curtain billows
once, twice. Your children are lost,
they come back, you don’t remember how.
A love turns to a statue in a dress, the statue
comes back to life. O god, it’s all so realistic
I can’t stand it. Whereat I weep and sing.
Such a relief to burst from the theater
into our cool, imaginary streets
where we know who’s who and what’s what,
and command with MetroCards our destinations.
Where no one with a story struggling in him
convulses as it eats its way out,
and no one in an antiseptic corridor
or in deserts or in downtown darkling plains
staggers through an Act that just will not end,
eyes burning with the burning of the dead.
–“James Richardson (1950- ) “The God Who” and “In Shakespeare” are from Richardson’s latest collection By the Numbers (Copper Canyon Press, 2010).