Communicating with God

Now and again I come across a cleric who has all the answers but doesn’t allow interaction. I want to put my hand up, say politely: “May I disagree?” But it’s not allowed. These people, usually men, seem to have a Whatsapp link to God because they always know what He thinks: “Jesus said X, and what he really means is this . . . “ Really?

When I fidget, my wife restrains me. “It’s alright,” she whispers, patting my hand. “It’ll be over soon.” But it isn’t. I fume. I rant. I get home and take out this poem, “I Feel Sorry for Jesus” by Naomi Shihab Nye which hits the spot:

People won’t leave Him alone.

I know He said, wherever two or more

are gathered in my name…

but I’ll bet some days He regrets it.

Cozily they tell you what He wants

and doesn’t want

as if they just got an e-mail.

Literary critics are sometime like clerics, appraising a poem, certain they know what the poet was thinking. How can they possibly know?

When a poet introduces a poem at a live event with some context, as I did recently in the Swindon Town Gardens, it helps. Beyond that the critic should stick to the poem, suggest links to biography, mythology, history, their own feelings. I want my readers to own my poem, unwrap it and read it again and again, find depth resonating beneath – as Naomi’s poem does:

I stood in the spot where He was born.

I closed my eyes where He died and didn’t die.

Every twist of the Via Dolorosa

was written on my skin.

And that makes me feel like being silent

for Him, you know? A secret pouch

of listening. You won’t hear me

mention this again.


First Published in Swindon Link

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