Friday, March 18, 2011

And now for a surprising poem by John Updike

This was featured in The Writer's Almanac this morning (thanks, Annie, for introducing the Almanac to me!), and I was interested in this poem by Updike. I guess I haven't read enough of his work to know whether the theme is typical. Meanwhile (and wholly unrelated to Updike) Jimmer the Fish is still alive.

Religious Consolation

by John Updike

One size fits all. The shape or coloration
of the god or high heaven matters less
than that there is one, somehow, somewhere, hearing
the hasty prayer and chalking up the mite
the widow brings to the temple, A child
alone with horrid verities cries out
for there to be a limit, a warm wall
whose stones give back an answer, however faint.

Strange, the extravagance of it—who needs
those eighteen-armed black Kalis, those musty saints
whose bones and bleeding wounds appall good taste,
those joss sticks, houris, gilded Buddhas, books
Moroni etched in tedious detail?
We do; we need more worlds. This one will fail.

"Religious Consolation" by John Updike, from Americana and Other Poems. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

7 comments:

Anne said...

Lovely; thank you!

Kim said...

Wow. Thank you. That was very moving.

LucindaF said...

Ha, I didn't even read the poem because HELLO, the fish is ALIVE and also named JIMMER!!!

Make sure you give The Fish, not unlike The Jimmer, plenty of treats before the game tomorrow and rub his bowl for good luck.

shelley said...

I like how the poem leaves you wanting to finish the last line. This world will fail...our expectations? Our hopes? The world will pass away? This world will fail in kindness?

Louise Plummer said...

Who needs Moroni etched in tedious detail? I do, it seems.

Tiffany said...

Whoa boy, do I love that poem. Thanks for sharing.

Anna said...

What a lovely poem! A part of me always feels a little surprised when someone famous who seems utterly unconnected with Mormon culture or people throws in an unexpected reference to us.

Glad to hear Jimmer is alive and well. Hopefully this bodes well for the taller, air-breathing one!