In Scripture, “the name of God” equals “the power of God.” Think of Jesus saying, in John’s Gospel, “I will do whatever you ask in my name” (14: 13-14). What Anya Silver does in this poem is invent a litany of extraordinary images for her personal relation to the name of God. She longs to “cradle the delicious name of God” in her mouth. She wants to breathe in the name of God as the ink of the Torah. She “will dream myself into the body of a bee” so as to “sip the scent of blackberry in the golden name of God.” And so on through the poem’s couplets, each offering a new, astonishing image. What I love about this poem, besides these wonderful images, is the sensuousness that runs through them all. How often do we imagine our relation to God as sensuous? Anya Silver’s poem shows us what we gain by doing so.
“The Name of God,” by Anya Silver
Like a baker, swaddling the juice and heft of apples in pastry,
I want my mouth to cradle the delicious name of God.
Kissing the Torah, I breathe the dust that has lain on the name of God,
imagine ink on my indrawn breath.
I will dream myself into the body of a bee. I will enter the honeycomb
and sip the scent of blackberry in the golden name of God.
I will open the windows of my house so the name of God can write itself
on my walls with pigment of breeze and pollen, with stylus tipped in light.
If my heart were an amber room, I would inscribe the name of God
over its doorways, and once a year I would flame it down to spicy smoke and oil.
When I was a girl, I drank from the chalice and felt the wine’s heat travel
down my bones, each pressed grape’s drop alit with the secret name of God.
And later, full of grief, I let a woman press hard against my spine and felt
life rushing again through my body, releasing the clenched-up name of God.
I want the name of God to frost over my sight, to loop the tides to my ears.
How can I be frightened with those vowels in my lungs, flaring like paper lanterns?
Anya Silver has published one book of poetry, The Ninety-Third Name of God (Louisiana State University Press); a chapbook, Saints of Autumn (Redbone Chapbooks); and a book of literary criticism, Victorian Literature and the Anorexic Body (Cambridge University Press). She was born in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and was educated at Haverford College and Emory University. She teaches in the English Department of Mercer University and lives in Macon, Georgia, with her husband, Andrew, and son.