I don't care if it's a doorknob,
my mother said,
You gotta believe in something.
Her voice was angry but I was a petulant teen and it took me years to hear the sadness she felt. I know now that she wanted me to believe in something bigger than myself, to see beyond the smallness of me.
Today I'm pondering the beauty of doorknobs, knowing that belief is big enough to encompass doubt, and doubt leads to searching, and searching leads to wonder, and wonder leads to . . . anything, everything.
I like how Czeslaw Milosz calls belief, or prayer, a velvet bridge.
You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word 'is'
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.
- Czeslaw Milosz
Still, I am a searcher, questioning my faith even while firmly believing. Jane Mead's poem, Concerning the Prayer I Cannot Make, speaks to this very conundrum, and in a frank tone I appreciate (and that last stanza - wow!):
Concerning the Prayer I Cannot Make
Jesus, I am cruelly lonely
and I do not know what I have done
nor do I suspect that you will answer me.
And, what is more, I have spent
these bare months bargaining
with my soul as if I could make her
promise to love me when now it seems
that what I meant when I said "soul"
was that the river reflects
the railway bridge just as the sky
says it should—it speaks that language.
I do not know who you are.
I come here every day
to be beneath this bridge,
to sit beside this river,
so I must have seen the way
the clouds just slide
under the rusty arch—
without snagging on the bolts,
how they are borne along on the dark water—
I must have noticed their fluent speed
and also how that tattered blue T-shirt
remains snagged on the crown
of the mostly sunk dead tree
despite the current's constant pulling.
Yes, somewhere in my mind there must
be the image of a sky blue T-shirt, caught,
and the white islands of ice flying by
and the light clouds flying slowly
under the bridge, though today the river's
fully melted. I must have seen.
But I did not see.
I am not equal to my longing.
Somewhere there should be a place
the exact shape of my emptiness—
there should be a place
responsible for taking one back.
The river, of course, has no mercy—
it just lifts the dead fish
toward the sea.
Of course, of course.
What I meant when I said "soul"
was that there should be a place.
On the far bank the warehouse lights
blink red, then green, and all the yellow
machines with their rusted scoops and lifts
sit under a thin layer of sunny frost.
my own palm—
there, slowly rocking.
It is my pale palm—
palm where a black pebble
is turning and turning.
all you bare trees
pile of twigs
red and green lights flashing
muddy bottle shards
shoe half buried—listen
listen, I am holy.
- Jane Mead
I found these gems in Poems to Live By in Uncertain Times. Sometimes I need a "sign," and today, stumbling upon these poems, I found proof that poetry really is a form of prayer.