Once the author, a doctor, has finished
His preamble, he reads from his careful,
Wry book. He tells us that his wife’s cancer
Diagnosis, in her late 30s, brought
Him to a dead halt, that all the things he
Thought he knew, the rich Jewish scriptural
Tradition he was brought up in, just had
No weight. He had to ask the rabbi —nicely—
To hold off on the well-meaning pleas to
God. “My wife and I would face this cancer
Alone. For us the gods, and the stories
They inspired, were human inventions.”
He asks for questions and I smile because
The first one, from a woman who does not
Quite look at him, is not a question. “You…
Say faith is an invention, but… sometimes
At night I go for walks with my husband.
We can see the stars and the heavens. In
The summer there are birds, rabbits, sometimes
We see deer by the lake. I see… God. We
Feel his presence.” The author politely
Waits, to see if there’s more, but it seems this
Magnificat is over.
He breathes, once, twice. “What a great question. I
Don’t tell my patients to forsake their faith.
If religion, if belief makes you lead
A happy life… I’m the last guy to stand
In the way. I’ve advised many patients
To rejoin their temple or church. All I
Argue in this book is that the results
Are in, and the lab says there is no God,
And the math can tell us how we got here.
I’ll say one last thing. The more secular,
The more decent. Where do you want to live—
Sweden or Iran?”
On our way to the train we pass a man
Who’s not sitting or standing at the bus
Shelter; he is not moving at all, nor
Was he when we went by him two hours
Ago. When sober, does he think of his
State? Is it good news to him that for some
He’s safe in the loving hands of Jesus?
That he’ll know one day, even as also
He is known; and that to others he had
Too many cocktails of bad luck blended
With bad choices? What need have we of
Mercy, when there is no judgement?
editors note: What need, indeed. Selah. – mh clay