Home > Mutating the Signature > faith on the rocks

faith on the rocks

April 6, 2009


She makes a barter with God:
give me one halcyon moment
a last shred of decency
between peaks of undulant pain.

She is a bird fluttering wildly.
What could I trade — kismet?
She is a feckless creature on the forest floor,
and her God is all illusion anyway.
Hands knitted in prayer, she laughs,
her pose misconstrued as belief.
The lines of her fingers trigger memories
of a childhood spent rapt by Jewish ritual,
of mysteries since unmasked, unfiltered.
Now nothing of religion is stimulating, no
stray meaning can find its home here,
where a speckled starling is most exalted.
She pours another gin and tonic, on the rocks,
finds in the glass as much depth as she can handle.
Here is a faith she can count on—
its promise not a particle more than it delivers.

by Sarah R. Bloom and Leslie F. Miller

Download the MP3 (reading by Sarah)

Leslie’s shot (click on image for a larger version):

faith on the rocks

Sarah’s shot (click on image for a larger version):

faith on the rocks

Process notes

This is the first of two poems that Miller and Bloom composed together; the second will appear later in the issue.

Instructions were for each partner:

  1. Ruminate over nice-sounding words, and pick ten of them.
  2. Swap word lists.
  3. Write a line of poetry with any word from the other person’s list.
  4. Return each line with a line using a word from the other person’s list.

Because you will EACH do this, you will have two poems going at the same time; use your partner’s ten words twice, once for each poem, and you will have two 20-line poems at the end. Or, if you find it too confusing, write just one poem, or write a second when you’ve finished the first.

Optional: Shoot photographs to illustrate each poem.

Note: Use the words only once per poem, in any order. Words can be altered for tense, person, and number, if necessary.

Side Note: Sarah started the first poem; Leslie started the second.

Sarah’s Words: speckled   rapt   misconstrued   particle   undulant   stimulating   halcyon   illusion   depth   kismet

Leslie’s Words: trigger   bird   feckless   knitted   barter   shred   tonic   stray   unmasked   faith

Leslie writes:
Sarah and I found this process incredibly daunting, and we challenged some of each other’s lines because they didn’t fit with our vision for the line we’d written. There were serious control issues with both of us. We kept trying to take the reins and steer the poem where we wanted it to go — and it wasn’t where the other wanted to go!

At the end, we tweaked the punctuation and a couple of the articles and small words, added titles, and settled on a final version.

These are poems we could not have written by ourselves. We truly used each other as inspiration.

  1. April 7, 2009 at 9:52 am | #1

    Wow. And it’s not just the fact that I’m writing in the early morning to respond to this that makes my comment so spare—I feel like you’ve delivered a small blow to my solar plexus with this powerful poem. I can tell how hard won it is–your tension and sweat and tears are still there. Your point of departure, the lists of words and the rules for using them, is brilliant. Congratulations on this considerable achievement, Leslie and Sarah.

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