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PSALM 151

At night our bodies nearly touch in the big bed the goosedown comforter feels as

light as the hand of God

I remember a smaller one in a different house where I slept alone in fear without

others with others

I say light because God has no hands nothing except the world to define Him

whatever we may say

Nights are always equally dark but the mind has degrees chocolate tar coal

taffeta open grave thoughts that panic the unwary

But I don’t care what it means as long as it continues or maybe I should say I

believe the afterlife is right now since this moment need not be

Belief! what a word the only one that really applies to everything as Nietzsche

knew and Freud who destroyed the word forever

Of course it all depends on who you listen to or refuse to listen to I’d like to be

able to do both at once

Listen with calm attentive compassion and not hear anyone’s words which

might be the one way to cure grief

Over the way things are over not being able to accept the way things are the way

things are is God

Constantly on the threshold of revelation lamenting all raising hymns to all

Some days it’s true even the coffee grounds are sacred nose hairs snot lint equal to

the most exquisite blazing yellow leaf ruined soon where sweet birds sing

And in the midst of whatever might be deemed agonizing irremediable the world

continues to give itself exactly as it is

For love of the earth is inescapable in surrender and who we are and what is are

one no thought can contradict the peace of that perception

— Stephen Berg

Stephen Berg, who in his long career in poetry has drawn on both his Jewish background and Zen Buddhist thought, embraces both in “To You,” a meditation in 13 extended lines, their long loops of language juxtaposed without punctuation, suggesting the stream of thought bumping against thought. Berg, who lives in Philadelphia, is the author of many books of poetry — including most recently “X=”(University of Illinois Press, 2003). He is also an active translator, and the co-founder and editor of the American Poetry Review.

In “To You,” we read nighttime thoughts, nighttime contemplations, the poet “in the big bed” still awake, remembering perhaps his childhood “in a smaller one in a different house,” and reflecting on a simile “light as the hand of God.” For the poet, at least, God is defined not by any dogma or fixed set of beliefs, but by the world and by consciousness, for “the mind has degrees” and gradations. By the end of the poem, he seems, at least temporarily, to have resolved the difficulty of belief: “who we are and what is are one,” a statement that fits nicely with Zen Buddhist thought while echoing the affirmation of the Shema.

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