First, it was more about mystery than about trying to get us to behave. Whichever, we’re still in some lonely cave, not far from that moment a lightning storm or a sunset drove us to invent the upper reaches of the sky. Religion is proof that a good story, well-told, is a powerful thing. Proof, too, that terror makes fabulists of us all. We’re pitiful, finally, and so oddly valiant. The dead god rising into ism after ism-that longing for coherence that keeps us, if not naive, historically challenged. To love Christ you must love the Buddha, to love Mohammed or Moses you must love Confucius and, say, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche as well. They were all wise and unsponsored and insufficient, some of the best of us. I’m saying this to myself: the sacred cannot be found unless you give up some old version of it. And when you do, mon semblable, mon frere, I swear there’ll be an emptiness it’ll take a lifetime to fill. Indulge, become capacious, give up nothing, Jack my corner grocer said. He was pushing the portobellos, but I was listening with that other, my neediest ear.
Stephen Dunn is the author of ten collections of poems, most recently Loosestrife (Norton), which was a finalist for The National Book Critics Circle Award. These prose pairs will be part of his new book Riffs & Reciprocities, which Norton will publish in April.
Copyright World Poetry, Incorporated Mar/Apr 1998
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved