Tuesday, June 06, 2006


A little poem called Sacrament by the Canadian poet Alden Nowlan, in its entirety:
God, I have sought you as a fox seeks chickens,
curbing my hunger with cunning.
The times I have tasted your flesh
there was no bread and wine between us,
only night and the wind beating the grass.
Night, wind, grass. And, yes, bread and wine too, although not as symbols of something otherworldly and divine, but as themselves. Bread, wine, candlelight, convivial conversation, rain on window glass, thunder somewhere afar off. The early morning coo of the mourning dove. A stone picked up along the path, hard and cool in the hand.

I want to know the stories of things. Concrete, sensual, particular things. This drop of rain on glass. This stone. But to know the particular in its fullness, it helps to know the general. Every molecule of H2O is identical to every other molecule of H2O. The stone in the path was carried here, like every other stone in the path, by glaciers. That's why I have studied science for half a century.

I call it cunning.