November 3, 2013

Prompt: Robert Sward and "God is in the Cracks"


The Helix Nebula - also known as The Eye of God

In his poem, "God is in the Cracks," we have a dialog between poet Robert Sward and his father.

If you read that poem for this month's prompt, a number of paths might come to mind for your own writing:  1) a poem about fathers and sons  2) the acceptance (or lack of) what we have chosen to do with our lives by our family  3) the life of the mind versus a life more firmly grounded in "work."  The elder Mr. Sward even suggests, correctly, a poem about arch supports.

I would be okay with those three being the prompt for your November submission, but, for me, the heart of the poem is in the harder-to-explain idea of the title.
"Just a tiny crack separates this world
from the next, and you step over it
      every day,
God is in the cracks."

Robert Sward
Robert Sward's father, a podiatrist, came to the United States from Russia. Life experiences made him convert from Judaism to Rosicrucianism, a philosophical secret society. Living in the Jewish North Side of Chicago, his father practiced his religion in their basement, which figures in his collection, Rosicrucian in the Basement , where this poem originally appeared.

The religious or spiritual or philosophical theme is hard to avoid. Being raised Catholic, I had trouble as a child grasping this idea that I had two fathers - the one making eggs in the kitchen and another God the father who always appeared in illustrations as more grandfatherly than my own grandfather.

Avoiding those cracks so that you don't cross over to that other world every day reminded me of the recurring line in John Irving's novel, The Hotel New Hampshire: "Keep passing the open windows." Don't jump out and end it all, no matter how hard the day and life appear to be right now.

The title also made me think of the idea of God being "in the gaps." In the always argumentative meeting of science and religion, the religious side often inserts God into the "gaps" that appear in scientific explanations of the universe. Scientists trace back to a big bang where everything including time begins. But what triggered that big bang and what came before it? No answer. So, God fills that gap. It's an argument that angers scientists (Where's the evidence for God?) and pleases the believers because it has to be taken on faith, which stops all reasonable debating.

So, prompt #4 is my favorite and clearly the most difficult. It is to write about this crack or gap and God and how we step over it every day.  Maybe it also involves fathers and mothers, careers and family, the life of the mind and the everyday life. Maybe it's the support we want from our family that doesn't appear quite so literally as those in our shoes.

This work of being a poet is not as easy as it looks.

Submission deadline: Saturday, November 30, 2013




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