Some while back I mentioned poet Christian Wiman. I like his work, and his story even more. In the space of a few years in his early thirties, he found God, fell in love and married, and was diagnosed with incurable blood cancer. He writes, as you’d imagine, with attention and poignancy, and, as you might not expect from a contemporary poet, with a good deal of investment in things like rhythm and structure. As a way into this poem, here’s a line or two from a biographical essay he wrote called “Love bade me welcome” (a quote from George Herbert): “I was brought up with the poisonous notion that you had to renounce love of the earth in order to receive the love of God. My experience has been just the opposite: a love of the earth and existence so overflowing that it implied, or included, or even absolutely demanded, God. Love did not deliver me from the earth, but into it. And by some miracle I do not find that this experience is crushed or even lessened by the knowledge that, in all likelihood, I will be leaving the earth sooner than I had thought.” This poem, with its echo of Hopkins and its Herbertesque conceit, is called “Every riven thing”, a title which on its own tells multitudes about a view of the world.
God goes, belonging to every riven thing he's made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why
God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he's made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where
God goes belonging. To every riven thing he's made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see
God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,
God goes belonging to every riven thing he's made.