William Childress: “How the Earth Was Made”

William Childress is a Pulitzer-nominated author and photojournalist who is regarded as one of the foremost poets of the Korean War. His books include Burning the Years and Lobo. “Chilly” is a Winning Writers subscriber and an endlessly entertaining correspondent. He emailed me one of his latest poems, which I liked so much that I got permission to reprint it here. Though I don’t share the narrator’s atheistic conclusion, I can relate to the feeling that God’s creation is so much grander and more mysterious than some of our stunted human concepts of the divine. Sometimes, religious ideas (like any ideas) can be a distraction from appreciating what’s right in front of us.

How the Earth Was Made

I was a youngster when I walked a trail
Through autumn woods a nonexistent god
took credit for. I never thought it odd
that to a child, the world was magical,

and yellow was the color of enchantment.
It wasn’t simply that a golden hue
should bejewel and complement the blue
eternal arc that made a firmament,

but that the sky itself should overlay
my own poor silly guise. There had to be
so many ways to create such a world,
ways understood by all but those who spoiled

the fairness and the flowers by saying God
made it all in just seven days.
How odd
we are, attributing power to nothing but air.
If you can’t see it, then it isn’t there.