April 23, 2005

A Poem : Brooks Haxton

The Passion of Colic

Out of the mouth of babes... Psalm 8

Putting herself to sleep,
she screams: she needs our help
to stop. The doctor said
we could ignore her screams
and she'd pass out. But chaos roars
through the apartment, which is small.

The moon is tiny although full, the stars
funereally mum. You may wish
to think of them as heaven.
You may fume at what makes you
feel helpless in her scream.
Praises of the excellences of this world

may not come to mind. But we had better
pray at any rate, though in our thoughts
we curse her, and ourselves,
and for his longtime unforgiving absence
God--pray: let that baby rage; let not
one muscle wrenching me with anger budge.

-- Brooks Haxton, from Uproar: Antiphonies to Psalms

Excerpts from the Preface to UPROAR:

Lying about God

A few years back, when I was translating ancient Greek poems from the same period as the Hebrew Psalter, I began to feel that I wanted my own poems to flow from sources as vital to me as Aphrodite and Apollo were to the Greeks. I turned to the Psalms as poems from my childhood, from my parents' and their parents' childhoods, with this kind of charge. Psalms had fascinated me before I understood what such old-fashioned language meant, and later, when I learned the meanings of the words, the poems fascinated me and moved me that much more.

Religious writings have described the experience of people in so many times and places that not to believe in any of them seems gratuitous. I might as well choose not the believe in Bach's cello suites, or in the connection between music and the cosmos where it occurs. Being is beyond belief.

The faiths I have inherited--and the attendant doubts--are mine, and I am theirs, whether we chose each other or not.

The psalmists have expressed so many ways of thinking and feeling, at the king's court, on the field of battle, in the temple and the house of bondage, that I take psalms less as doctrines than as outcries, and I cry back in these poems from whatever vantage I can find.


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