Poetry Friday: “Divine Wrath”

Bird on branchMultiple members of my family live with chronic pain, which is why I’m always arrested by writers who don’t let God off the hook for painful experiences, who question suffering more closely. Can we know who is ultimately responsible for suffering? Does suffering have a purpose (and if it does, why does it so often feel senseless)? Most importantly, how do we move through pain and cause less of it ourselves? The narrator of this poem shows pain reducing us to our most animal selves—like “a dog who’s been beaten”—and yet we, unlike animals, are able to ask our owners: “Why do you beat me?” On one level, that question sits on the page like an unanswered cry to the heavens, recalling Job. On another level, we’re encouraged to aim this question at ourselves in the mirror—because it seems possible that if we are divinely inspired, we are capable of our own forms of “divine wrath.” What I love about this poem is that, in the end, the act of questioning helps us transcend the need for answers. The perpetrator and victim dissolve into each other in one shocking prayer: “May whoever hurt me, forgive me.”

—Tyler McCabe


“Divine Wrath” By Adélia Prado

When I was wounded
whether by God, the devil, or myself
—I don’t know yet which—
it was seeing the sparrows again
and clumps of clover, after three days,
that told me I hadn’t died.
When I was young,
all it took were those sparrows,
those lush little leaves,
for me to sing praises,
dedicate operas to the Lord.
But a dog who’s been beaten
is slow to go back to barking
and making a fuss over his owner
—an animal, not a person
like me who can ask:
Why do you beat me?
Which is why, despite the sparrows and the clover,
a subtle shadow still hovers over my spirit.
May whoever hurt me, forgive me.

Translated from the Brazilian Portuguese by Ellen Doré Watson

 

Adélia Prado is one of the foremost poets of Brazil, praised both in literary circles and the mainstream media. The author of six books of poetry and six of prose, Prado was praised byVeja (Brazil’s Newsweek) as “a writer of rare brilliance and invincible simplicity.” The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems of Adélia Prado, translated by Ellen Doré Watson, was published by Wesleyan in 1990.

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My Days of Awe, 5776

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImpatience. Anger. Wastefulness. Restlessness. Desire. Haughtiness. Greed. Judgement. Pride.

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I’ve been paying attention, especially the last few days. Now it’s getting serious. It’s the morning of the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

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Yesterday, just after I walked into the house after ten-and-a-half hours at the university, before I dropped my heavy book bag on the floor, I spotted a bowl of chips and an open container of my favorite salsa. But before I was able to crack the first of forty chips in my mouth, my wife said, it arrived crushed.

She was on hold, forty-five minutes waiting for a customer service rep. The post office. How to file a claim. A box of wedding gifts. [Read more…]

Original Sin and the Warp Effect

Fleeing_bayeux_tapestryOne of the great writers—to my recollection, Flannery O’Connor—said something to the effect that everything we touch is warped by original sin, even our greatest virtues. If I am interpreting her correctly, this means that any display of a moral act is polluted somehow, flecked with impurity, however slight, simply by way of being performed by a human agent.

Of course, in a very simplified definition, original sin is the concept that a human being, through some primordial dissociation from God’s will—is by nature a creature morally flawed and faulted. This dissociation riddles his existence with tendencies, penchants, bents that are as innate to him as the desires of a lion to eat meat, a plant to seek sunshine.

More precise yet, they are as entwined with his makeup as a leopard is with his spots, a giraffe with her height, a gazelle with his speed. Indeed, the lower animals act by instinct and there is some rough barometer to their need. They may lay waste to field or to another population, but in doing so, there is a level of satiety that they are aiming for, and it is directly associated with their appetites.

Man, on the other hand, has no cap to his desires; they are boundless. Further, unlike animals, humans are not necessarily motivated by physical want. Pride is a metaphor applied to the lion; it is a deadly reality when applied to a human, as much a part of a man as his blood type. [Read more…]

Having Enough: Jacob, Esau, and the Great Books

Tissot_The_Meeting_of_Esau_and_JacobGuest post by Jonathan Hiskes

It feels silly to say I studied the classics because of slick marketing copy, but that’s what happened. When I was seventeen, I had no idea what to do with the glossy college viewbooks that began showing up in the mail. They offered up images of interchangeable gothic lecture halls, sunlit quads, and cheering, face-painted football crowds. They offered up equally sunny portrayals of happy, high-earning alumni in successful careers.

Amid that flurry came a flyer bearing names like Homer, Plato, Machiavelli, Descartes, Nietzsche, and Locke—names I knew nothing about, beyond some vague sense of their importance. It advertised a yearlong honors seminar on “Developments in the History of Western Thought” at Loyola University Chicago. The flyer had a message about asking big questions or thinking deep thoughts or some such language calibrated to appeal to pretentious high-school seniors. It probably had more gothic spires or Greek columns. [Read more…]

Bullets in My House

Eyes II (2)By Paul Luikart

Last Wednesday I settled down on the couch to do something I’d been meaning to do for months: Watch True Detective. My kids were asleep. My wife was asleep. I was all set to binge watch until my eyes bled.

Season one, episode one cued up on my laptop. Play. Woody Harrelson in a suit. A naked dead woman tied up in a field, deer antlers stuck to her skull. Stringy-haired Matthew McConaughey lighting a cig in the interrogation room.

How can I say what happened next without sounding fake? Our house was shot. Hit by bullets. The noise of gunfire was suddenly present, live, loud, in my living room. Instinctively I rolled off the couch onto the floor and nearly crushed my computer. My wife appeared from the hall. [Read more…]


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