God’s Acrostic

What if the universe is God’s acrostic?
He’s sneaking bits of proverbs into seismic variations;
Abbreviating psalms in flecks of snow.
Try to read them, says a comet,

If you dare.
Fine print. What you’ve been waiting for.

Twisted in the DNA of marmosets:
Hermetic feedback to your tight-lipped prayer.
Examine indentations left by hailstones in the grass;

Unearth their parallel soliloquies;
Note, too, the shifting patterns in the shibboleths
Initiating each communication.
Verify them. Don’t take my word.
Eavesdrop on the planets in the outer spheres; they may
Reverse the letters’ previous direction.
Silence, as you might imagine, has no bearing here.
Episodes of stillness—however brief—must be

Interpreted as unheard

Gaps that, with any luck, you’ll fill in later—
Or so you tell yourself, acknowledging
Delusion’s primal status in this enterprise.
Still, that’s no reason to slow down.

Abandonments are howling out around you:
Cast-off lamentations from the thwarted drops of rain
Reduced to vapor on their struggle down;
Observe, at the very least, their passing.
Sanctify them. Don’t succumb
To anything less potent than a spelled-out
Invitation to rule a not yet formulated nebula.
Calm yourself. You’ll hear it come.

–Jaqueline Osherow

I have been in an email conversation with my friend L about poets turning to visual artists for inspiration (she is, inter alia, a poet) and vice versa. In general I find poets and poetry more compatible (sympathetic? aligned?) with my experiences in the studio than I do talking with other visual artists. L thinks writers can be a bit cranky, and I think visual artists tend to be.

This issue has many sides. My sister Rebecca, a consummate musician, is compelled by composing and would like to do more. Even though she has the musical gifts, I listen to more contemporary music than she does. But that is by design and primarily a matter of self-protection: She doesn’t want to drown out her own music with overexposure to the work of others. In a similar vein, Rilke once wrote that he didn’t read the reviews of his books because he didn’t want to disturb his subconscious.

I do have visual artist friends whose minds and points of view excite, delight and inspire me. But their impact on my work feels more macro than micro. Meanwhile the straw, dirt and clay I need to build come from lots of small and random encounters, with tiny aha’s and those chords that hit the resonating board deep inside. The instantaneous and random insights come by way of poetry more frequently than almost anything else I do each day.

Thank you to 3 Quarks Daily for introducing me to Osherow’s work. I read this and immediately began searching for more that would be available to read online. Every other poem by her that I found was compelling.

Originally from Philadelphia, Osherow now teaches poetry and creative writing at the University of Utah. Small world. I spent two semesters there after I returned from a year in France, attending school there at the same time Karl Rove was beginning his pernicious career as a political operative with the Young Republicans. But there’s no reason to spend time on that peculiar and random overlap since we are just days from the official end to the worst political era in our country’s history, in which Rove played a major role. January 20 can’t come fast enough.

This poem has a cosmic swat, but I find a redemptive sense of calm when I read it. That’s something we can all use more of. I hope you get a hit of that too.

Greevaye 2, mixed media on wood panel, 2008