Aliki Barnstone - Poet, Translator, Critic, Editor, English Professor
With God in the Morning
I can’t go back to sleep,
so I weep, listening
for a rhyme.
For example, the morning dove sighs deep in my backyard.
She doesn’t sing.
The Jehovah’s witnesses rap at my door. They don’t ring
my bell, in whose metal the word “peace” is cast.
How sweet are these witnesses, who stand at my threshold
and do not pass through, who honor you with formal dress,
expectant, smiling, their leaflets and Bibles held to their hearts.
They apologize for waking me,
though their mission is to wake me,
and leave me
with a little flier about why to read your word.
They promise to return, just as you did.
They know your name is Jehovah, but I wonder
if you are a supernova contained
in each letter of scripture
or are you my Casanova, wandering across the globe,
entering so many souls with your flesh and blood,
pouring your light into their mouths with a kiss.
I make coffee because I will not sleep.
How can it be that I am not unique?
How can it be that I am what I am
just like them, who know the answers so well?
And now—Holy Christ!--the phone rings as if to answer
my disbelief in answers.
National Geographic offers me a free satellite map,
a gift I can keep, if only I will give a chance
to a DVD of their highlights through the decades.
A map from space!
Could the charted world make me
a way to travel to you?
Would you take me
in your arms again and again
would we ascend to heavenly realms?
I tell the woman reading from her script
that I don’t think I will accept her gift
and my ridiculous voice cracks
at the thought that I might have told your witnesses
the same, just as I beg now for forgiveness
and ask, please don’t call again.
That’s okay. You’re okay, she says, blessing me in her way.
Have a good day.
And then, dear God, I hang up the phone.
(The Sheep Meadow Press, 2009)