It’s cold today in New York City, finally, and that means some semblance of normality descends. Amen. I’ve been off the map, thanks to a bout with bronchitis-turned-pneumonia. Not to worry, four days into my antibiotic regimen, and I’m feeling on the mend. Treks to the corner bodega aren’t so easy, nonetheless, this vacation is a true one that finds me indoors, reading, relaxing, and just generally kicking back. I’d like to be out and about, taking in some shows and museum visits, but we can’t have every little thing in this life at all moments, no? Books and a warm dog suffice for now.
I’m also finally turning to some cds sent my way, primarily from Dan Coffey and Brian Howe, and am digging Richard Buckner’s “Meadow”, which is surprisingly upbeat and lovely, the latter being normal for this musician.
Anyway, to celebrate the new light and air beyond this wall’s perimeter, I thought I’d share a John Ashbery poem I love, for many reasons, but one stand out one is that it resonates with the distress I feel when people try to name God, describe that entity, and tell me what God wants. It takes a lot of audacity or myopia to speak for a being one deems supreme and ultimate. It’s like trying to say everything all at once. No one can do that. So let God be God and attend to your own intentions and the measures you take, I say. That’s enough to fill a lifetime. Say your piece about your version of god if it suits you, or you’re compelled, as many poets are, but don’t declare yours a universal truth, applicable to all. Peace be with you, brother, and the paths you take, the notions you endow, the truths you entertain, etc.
THE GODS OF FAIRNESS
The failure to see God is not a problem
God has a problem with. Sure, he could see us
if he had a hankering to do so, but that’s
not the point. The point is his concern
for us and for biscuits. For the loaf
of bread that turns in the night sky over Stockholm.
Not there, over there. And I yelled them
what I had told them before. The affair is no one’s business.
The peeing man seemed not to notice either.
We came up the strand with carbuncles
and chessmen fetched from the wreck. Finally the surplus buzz
did notice, and it was fatal to our project.
We just gave up then and there, some of us dying, others walking
wearily but contentedly away. God had had his little joke,
but who was to say it wasn’t ours? Nobody, apparently,
which could be why the subject was never raised
in discussion groups in old houses along the harbor,
some of them practically falling into it.
Yet still they chatter a little ruefully: “I know
your grace’s preference.” There are times
when I even think I can read his mind,
coated with seed-pearls and diamonds.
There they are, for the taking. Take them away.
Deposit them in whatever suburban bank you choose.
Hurry, before he changes his mind — again.
But all they did was lean on their shovels, dreaming
of spring planting, and the marvellous harvests to come.
–John Ashbery, Your Name Here
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Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.