Many of the poems I write are on the lighter side, and they are quite obvious in their meaning – deliberately so. But where I write less clear-cut poems, I try to avoid explaining what they mean to me, unless asked. This is partly because I don’t want to be a spoilsport. But it’s also because I know that each reader may take something completely new away from a poem – different to what I intended, yes, but nevertheless equally valid. And that is a glorious thing.
Now, I have carefully explained that rule because… I am now going to break it. This poem featured in this post is an attempt to convey something that I have tried to get across to people in “ordinary” words, but cannot. Poems can be good at throwing a light on things that we don’t have decent everyday language for. It’s one of the things they’re “for”, after all.
So does this poem convey what I wanted? Well, judge for yourself. The explanation is below the poem. And if you don’t want me to be a spoilsport, then stop reading at the end of the poem!
The Exhalations of Stones
We are the exhalations of stones, they said.
We know it because we know.
Tell your children of the cool breath
that fashioned their bones.
We are the sense of senseless things, they said.
We feel it because we feel.
Let the faithful shape the new law
from their imaginings.
You who blow doubt across creation, they said,
should quiet your tawdry lies.
Ours is the rock the air the spirit the peace the world.
Yours the damnation.
This poem was first published at The Hypertexts.
So what’s it about?
As an atheist, I find it difficult to explain to people with religious faith how their beliefs sound to me. It is really hard to explain this without tripping over language that may seem dismissive or insulting, or any of those things I don’t want to be. Even writing this paragraph is fraught with pitfalls!
People’s religious beliefs baffle me, to be honest. And I do get so frustrated by assertions such as “Ah, but you should have faith.” But why? Why should I have faith in this particular out-there suggestion, rather than any other out-there suggestion? What possible reason would I have to “give faith a go”, as has been suggested to me previously, when the thing you suggest I have faith in is so utterly unbelievable to me?
So, I decided to fabricate my own out-there suggestion and present it in the way mainstream religions are presented, to hold a gentle mirror up to faith and say, look. This is how it looks to me, and you saying “We know it because we know” isn’t really helping me out.
That’s a pretty long explanation for a pretty short poem. If you still don’t get it, well, that’s probably down to me. I’ll get my coat.
If you enjoy poetry, you can find poems from me, poems from people who are not me, and other poetry stuff at my Facebook page www.facebook.com/parmenterpoetryWhy not give it a follow?