Saturday, January 13, 2007

Villanelle: Close Encounter; On Faith

Close Encounter

Be still, old heart, the Lord walks through the grass.
His porcelain feet divide the snaking mist.
You weep and worship as you feel him pass.

You won't look up; your eyes have turned to glass.
Your sin imagines some unholy tryst.
Be still, old heart, the Lord walks through the grass.

You almost raise your eyes, feel small and crass.
He turns toward you and all your muscles twist.
You weep and worship as you feel him pass.

You would look up; you check the hourglass,
Timing the timeless, hoping he'll desist.
Be still, old heart, the Lord walks through the grass.

Eye contact seems too much of a trespass.
You hear him saying, "Stand! Do not resist."
You weep and worship as you feel him pass.

You dodge God's love as if he would harass!
Your faith can't get beyond his mailed fist.
Be still, old heart, the Lord walks through the grass.
You weep and worship as you feel him pass.

This poem approximates how I sometimes feel toward the Almighty. I can't look, I can't even raise my head up because I am so beset with my own sins. This is unfaith; I should believe Christ has taken all my sins upon himself and gaze at God with confidence. But what I believe and what I feel are divided.

When I last wept in church, I don't know if it was because I felt God had failed me or I had failed God. Mostly it is a feeling of being cast out of the garden, of being unable to believe that God would accept me in his loving embrace.

The psyche bleeds into spirituality without doubt. The fact that my mother never held me affectionately, but took care of my needs in a semi-robotic way, certainly influences my inability to accept grace, "God's unmerited favor toward sinners." It's hard for me to imagine, psychologically, a God so loving that he suffers all and forgives all. Christianity is hard to grasp partly because it's too simple: "You mean all I have to do is believe this is true?"

As I said, believing by no means translates to feeling, and humans need feelings to back up their beliefs. In one such as myself, who suffers from a disease of feelings, it's particularly hard. Perhaps that makes my faith more noble, perhaps less. I can't say. I only know, dimly, that there have been times in my life when I did feel whole, forgiven, cleansed, bathed in light. Usually these experiences came in the presence of unspoiled nature rather than church. I make no apologies for that; the redwoods exceed any cathedral I've visited.

A question for thought: How might an autistic person relate to God?--someone the opposite of me, afflicted with no feelings, rather than feelings too intense and sustained.

Here endeth the epistle for the day.

Thine in Timid Faith,



  1. Anonymous5:12 AM PST

    What pain your Villanelle stirrs in my breast.
    wrote you at melicreview.

  2. Anonymous9:01 AM PST

    You hit the nail on the head CE, as you often do. Releasing a drop of water into a swimming pool is hardly a 'surge'. It's a cynical ego-project by a guy with Oedipal issues. Even the number is prima facie absurd: 21,500. Why not 22,753 19-years-olds? It suggests a precision that is ludicrous. Your Ca-NY analogy does not do the current cluster-f*ck full justice. At least there is a shared language-cultural similarity in that both states speak Spanish. I've argued before that we are all victims of shamelessly overheated language. One more reason not to elect a dyslexic malapropist in the future. As you say, the Bloods and the Crips of LA would immediately be described in the NY press as sectarian insurgents, more rhetorical hyperbole, when in fact they're just dudes with weapons taking pot shots at strange new dudes on their turf. What the hell's the difference between a Shi'ite and Crip when you march around his neighborhood with guns? Everywhere the rhetoric is unmatched by the actions. If this is the struggle of our generation, where the hell are the twins?

  3. Thanks for the comments. I'll look at my mailbox.

    Norm, I think, I recognize your rhetoric--(perhaps it's someone else). Normally you sign your name.

    Good point on shared culture; my analogy had more to do with numbers. Any analogy extended to the nth degree becomes absurd. I don't get your reference to the "twins." Am I that dumb? Unless you mean the Gemini.

  4. I've always felt unforgiven; unforgivable. From the time I was a very small child.

    Back then, my belief in god was literal. Big, bad, old Testament Yahweh, that is. For some reason, I've always had a difficult time connecting the holy trinity, accepting them as one god. So, Jesus was just this cool hippie who loved everybody and the holy ghost was, well, um....a ghost.

    Me? I was a sinner. Unforgiven. Unforgivable. Being Catholic will do that to you.

    I guess I was born doubting though. I never really believed that my parents loved me unconditionally (even though, unbelievably, they did). I thought they had to love me, that it was a duty, an obligation.

    Hey, ya know, I'm a middle child. What can I say? (grin)

    Your question about autistics and how they might or might not relate to or feel about god reminded me of two books, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time" by Mark Haddon (which is a hell of a good novel written from an autistic teenager's point of view--very readable, very un-put-downable) and "Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin which I haven't read yet but was written by an autistic woman who changed the whole slaughterhouse industry and managed to make it, impossible as it sounds, more humane. I saw her profiled on 60 Minutes and she's fascinating. Completely disconnected from human beings and emotion and touch and wholly connected to animals and their worlds.

  5. There aren't any answers to these questions that would suit a comment-box vehicle, so I won't try.

    But your poems always grapple with the issues that matter.

  6. Anonymous8:50 AM PST

    I forgot to sign my name CE, but you can clearly spot my rhetoric a mile away by now. Poor sod. The issue as you say is one of ludricous scale, compounded I would suggest by cultural differences that make the NY-CA analogy quaint in comparison. The twins are the Bush twins. Even the layabout British monarchy is sending one of its own (Harry) to Iraq. What happened to the noblesse oblige displayed by George HW Bush as a young man in WWII? Jr went AWOL during Vietnam, and the twins don't even make the slightest gesture towards public service. This is a litmus test for America's progressive generational decline. The rich and privileged don't even have to pretend anymore. Remember Bush's high-flown rhetoric to the nation: this is our generation's test. But what does he say at his own kitchen table? Where are the effin' twins? He's 0 for 2 at his own kitchen table. Unless he's imparting to them a separate 'privileged' message, maybe a Skull and Bones get-out-of-jail free card.

    this time, norm

  7. Laurel, as a child I could accept God without ambivalence. As I teen I could not accept any "personal" God. As a late teen I used the Christian cult structure to abstain from psychedelics. Jesus and prayer meetings became a substitute, another way of avoiding God and myself.

    I think there are more Catholics in AA than any other religion. So often I've heard, "I'm a recovering Catholic."

    Oliver Sacks covered the slaughterhouse lady in his book on autism long before her book came out, but I would very much like to read her book. Is her prose without feeling or does language inexorably change it?

    Norm, the Bible says that the sons won't be put to death for the sins of their fathers and vice versa. I think every "public" figure deserves a private life, especially those who never sought publicity in the first place. I would not judge the twins for being like their peers. I think it a sign of strong parenting that George and Laura don't force any public role on the twins. This is likely not fair to say, but as I recall, you have no children--I have three daughters. I wouldn't force them to work in soup kitchens if their hearts weren't in it.

    Good to see you, Rob!


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