Robert Penn Warren
A Way to Love God
Here is the shadow of truth, for only the shadow is true.
And the line where the incoming swell from the sunset Pacific
First leans and staggers to break will tell all you need to know
About submarine geography, and your father's death rattle
Provides all biographical data required for the Who's Who of the dead.
I cannot recall what I started to tell you, but at least
I can say how night-long I have lain under the stars and
Heard mountains moan in their sleep.By daylight,
They remember nothing, and go about their lawful occasions
Of not going anywhere except in slow disintegration.At night
They remember, however, that there is something they cannot remember.
So moan.Theirs is the perfected pain of conscience that
Of forgetting the crime, and I hope you have not suffered it.I have.
I do not recall what had burdened my tongue, but urge you
To think on the slug's white belly, how sick-slick and soft,
On the hairiness of stars, silver, silver, while the silence
Blows like wind by, and on the sea's virgin bosom unveiled
To give suck to the wavering serpent of the moon; and,
In the distance, in plaza, piazza, place, platz, and square,
Boot heels, like history being born, on cobbles bang.
Everything seems an echo of something else.
And when, by the hair, the headsman held up the head
Of Mary of Scots, the lips kept on moving,
But without sound.The lips,
They were trying to say something very important.
But I had forgotten to mention an upland
Of wind-tortured stone white in darkness, and tall, but when
No wind, mist gathers, and once on the Sarré at midnight,
I watched the sheep huddling.Their eyes
Stared into nothingness.In that mist-diffused light their eyes
Were stupid and round like the eyes of fat fish in muddy water,
Or of a scholar who has lost faith in his calling.
Their jaws did not move.Shreds
Of dry grass, gray in the gray mist-light, hung
From the side of a jaw, unmoving.
You would think that nothing would ever again happen.
That may be a way to love God.
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