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Idyllwild Dreaming

30 October 2008 2,716 Views 5 Comments author: Tracy McCusker

Idyllwild Dreaming” is a series of poems on dreaming and the imagination. Three new poems from this series will be published every month as a on-going Playtime feature. Featured this month: “What the Word ‘God’ Means,” “The cracks of my mind,” and “Ode to Dark Places.” The first two poems are inspired by and/or quote directly from Wallace Steven’s superlative “Sunday Morning“–one of the most haunting and lovely poems of the 20th century. The last, “Ode to Dark Places” is written in the style of Pablo Neruda (specifically referencing “Ode to Salt“).

Thanks to all the Playtime contributors for their kind feedback & encouragement to continue writing poetry. Especial thanks to my editor, Matt Kessen.

What the word “God” means

My sister tells me
what the word god means
has become a scholarly matter.

She says the word to damn
annoying shoes and to avoid
harsher words underneath.

“God Lover”—
her epithet for wrongness—
is the private nickname
she calls me by.

But I call his name
when startled and alone,
because he comes first
in the dark.

“It’s an Old English thing,” she
insists. “He’s only a bloody giant
jutting from the sky.”

I know that god
of pestilent lands:
mighty and full of justice.

He crowned himself King,
casting the rebellious down
into rivers of fire—
“Wonderful!” she says,

but I would surely
fall through her heaven,
since it is little more than clouds
strung together with silk.

“He’s just a gaunt man
haunting us from a cross
—bloody, suffering, inhuman.

Even though his pain ceased
long ago, you make fresh blood
bubble from wood and brass.”

The cross near my head–
Jesus prone and withering–
reminds me that he loved enough.
Just enough.

She sees through clinical eyes:
suffering means disease
and cannot be
an element of a higher love.

He feeds my heart with small desires—
Like lovers’
almond kisses.

How do I tell her
that some faith doesn’t include
everlasting souls?

My hymns go up at night
and name my Lord by taste
of lips, neck, fingers, hair.

Even if heaven is the silk
and cloud of her mind,
such a love doesn’t starve my body.

Her God is scholar’s fodder:
words and verses
and semblances of men.

I try explaining,
but I don’t want to caress my faith
in front of her.

She understands changing seasons well.
But she mistakes my faith
With a love of stasis.
My heaven grows old and dies.

My faith isn’t physical:
it is a quiet imitation of God—
what lovers do if they were clouds.


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