Currently, I am reading a book of poems written by contemporary poet Christian Wiman. He has titled the collection, Once in the West. This is my first real experience with contemporary poetry, and I am glad I have entrusted myself to Wiman. The book of poems, with the exception of the introductory poem entitle “Prayer,” is separated into three parts: “Sungone Noon,” “My Stop is Grand,” and “More Like the Stars.” I have just finished the first part, and I wish to quote one poem from this group of poems:
We lived in the long intolerable called God.
We seemed happy.
I don’t mean content I mean heroin happy
I mean drycleaned deacons expunging suffering
from Calcutta with the cut of their jaws
I mean the always alto and surely anusless angels
divvying up the deviled eggs and jello salad in the after-rapture
to be mean.
Dear Lord forgive the love I have
for you and your fervent servants.
I have so long sojourned Lord
among the mild ironies and tolerable gods
that what comes first to mind
when I’m of a mind to witness
is muriatic acid
eating through the veins
of one whose pains were so great
she wanted only out, Lord, out.
She too worshipped you
She too popped her little pill of soul.
Lord if I implore you please just please leave me alone
is that a prayer that’s every instant answered?
I remember one Wednesday witness told of a time
his smack-freaked friends lashed him
to the back of a Brahman bull that bucked and shook
until the great bleeding wings the man’s collarbones
exploded out of his skin.
“It was then,” the man said, “right then…”
Yes. And how long before that man-
began his ruinous and (one would guess) Holy Spirit-less affair?
At what point did this poem abandon
even the pretense of prayer?
Imagine a man alive in the long intolerable time
made of nothing but rut and rot,
a wormward gaze
even to his days’ sudden heavens.
There is the suffering existence answers:
it carves from cheeks and choices the faces
we in fact are,
and there is the suffering of primal silence,
which seeps and drifts like a long fog
that when it lifts
but the same poor sod.
Dear God –