An Abrupt God

May 7, 2013

I only wished to see him walk
the length of sand in the moonlight,
eyes and hair dense in smiling disarray.
He only wanted a walk to breathe the salt sea air.
Seagulls reeled in a pageant of harmless flight,
out for hotdogs and salted pretzels.
But their shriek became hungry and monstrous,
like a sword in the sand, a line promoted first
to sound, then to music, a process of geometry
that surely must be holy,
for how else could we bear it?
How else could we let it have its way with us?
All lines should stretch to infinity.
A fantasy can only be an abrupt God.

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2 Responses to “An Abrupt God”

  1. John Stevens Says:

    I’m learning to follow your imagination wherever it takes you Jim, and not to expect an itinerary published in advance …
    at that point your comment arrived on my own latest poem: coincidentally we were commenting at the same time …
    so, I was walking the beach with you, picturing this unknown person, hearing those gulls, taking flight with you at the point where the very real I sound becomes music and metaphor, and geometry and theology enter the equation.
    Who is the ‘he’? I don’t know – not God I think; at any rate you have not told us this with a categorical capital letter on ‘him’ in line 1.
    So what does that last line mean? There’s a great deal of ambiguity. Is the fantasy the beach scene, the unidentified walker, the geometrical allusions, the poem itself? We can’t tell so we must interpret as we choose.
    And why ‘abrupt’? The word is highlighted in the title and the final line. Perhaps the whole scene is an epiphany – an abrupt revelation … of something, or someone … as we choose, maybe? I think you have invited us to come with you as far as we wish but with permission to diverge if we wish.
    A very nice poem again.

  2. extrasimile Says:

    So, we are once again on the beach. I think it’s my most common setting for a poem—which is strange, since I never go—even with world famous Jones Beach 20 minutes away. Perhaps I should one of these days: as a site for poetry—off season anyway—the beach is a meditative place. And right at the edge. Land and water.
    It’s possible the ambiguity in the poem comes from my uncertainty as to whether to include this as part of the middle school series. I think I should. It is sort of an abstract of—at least—Bathsheba’s situation. It’s not her voice, though. Not her child’s voice. Think of it as Bathsheba—an older B with her imaginary baby now grown—and the fantasy is passing. No, this is definitely not God—but she’s got her old geometry lesson in mind: about a theoretical line extending to infinity. I don’t know if we owe our concepts like infinity to mathematics or not (a disembodied existence being another) but it certainly messes up a simple materialist world view, doesn’t it? So…let’s imagine a Bathsheba who did not go back to Africa but stayed on wrapped in her make-believe child. Perhaps this fantasy is killed off by seabirds (metaphorically, as it were). Perhaps the whole beach seagull thing is symbolic of something still hidden. This is the situation that is reflected in the poem. Fantasies are not adequate to reality: they abruptly end. Lines end. God—or at least a certain conception of God—ends. How do know if it is a conception of God, or God that as so abruptly ended. Nothing in middle school has prepared us for this. The end.
    The question is though, how would anyone know this? They wouldn’t. But isn’t this where our words come from?


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