Tuesday, January 04, 2011

In place of belief

And speaking of the poet Grace Schulman, let me make another gesture in her direction, to her long poem called In Place of Belief.

She recognizes that the predisposition to belief is deep within us. I would suggest that the predisposition is more than cultural, that something fleshy in our brains is hardwired to affirm a transcendent reality. How else to explain the almost universality of belief in the absence of evidence.

A predisposition for belief, but, for Schulman, as for some of us, an impossibility too.
Lao Tsu told it best: The way is nameless.
The real cannot be seen. Still I make lists
of miracles, and never mind eternal.
Here, lilies unfurl in rocky soil;

a papery plant blooms into silver dollars;
grackles bob in a ring like a holy synod.
Of these commonplace, earthly things she remakes the temple, that place of worship of her Jewish heritage:
Earthly, but so was God's roll call of items
to build a chest for the Law: acacia wood,

brass rings, indigo curtains, names of things
transient but fit to hold all that endures.
Commonplace, yes, but evincing the eternal mystery. Lilies. Grackles. An eyelash Moon slipping by a gleaming planet in the morning sky. A line of marching ants streaming across the countertop. The hummingbird at the feeder. Not the God who speaks from the burning bush, but it is enough.
                I would eavesdrop, spy,
and keep watch on the chance, however slight,
that the unseen might dazzle into sight.