Poem: “A Myth”

Before the dam was built our people slept 
   under the water
and worshipped the dark bird-shadows of 
   boat hulls
which passed overhead, seen through 
   the ripples of distance.
Our crops were the weeds and growths that 
   trailed like tears
out of the sunken skulls of fish.
We scarcely noticed the water
weighing on our chests like a stone:
how do you notice a burden that has never 
   been lifted?
Speech went nowhere, a breath released into 
   the thick silence
that bathed us and sealed us in.
To communicate, we handed each other objects
dropped down from boats — a spoon for kindness,
a chronometer for death —
the phrases the gods had set for us.
After the dam was built we lay naked on 
   our dry beds.
It was so light we could not rest.
We had to believe that an element we 
   could not see
was now our own. The shadows we’d 
   learned to worship
streamed from every object. Some of us 
   bowed down
to birds whose shadows flickered across 
   the grass,
some to waving clotheslines’ shadowy flags,
and some to clouds that passed over the 
   whole scene,
dimming our other gods
to nothingness for a moment.
The weight of water being lifted from 
   our chests,
we learned the terror of aspiration, 
   as balloons
soaring, knowing they may burst.
And our words carried through the 
   new spaces
almost more than we could bear — released 
   like us
to travel, to die at unimagined distances.

         published in The Christian Century

3 comments on “Poem: “A Myth”

  1. Leah Gregg says:

    This reminds me of (the infamous) Romans 1. Which issue is it going to be in? I’m awaiting an entry about shaving Jesus. I found the power dynamics very interesting. When someone in a collar denounces a very basic tenant of the church and indeed the church itself what are we to think.

  2. Hank Rodgers says:

    This is WONDERFUL, Jendi! A lovely dream-journal of mankind’s religious journey.

  3. teens says:

    Today is going to learn to swim. Even though I was 20 years

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