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In the Cracks

December 2013

In his poem, "God is in the Cracks," we have a dialog between poet Robert Sward and his father.

The poem suggests a number of prompts: 1) a poem about fathers and sons  2) the acceptance (or lack of) what we have chosen to do with our lives by our family  3) the life of the mind versus a life more firmly grounded in "work."  The elder Mr. Sward even suggests, correctly, a poem about arch supports.
All three of those would be acceptable for this month's writing, but, for me, the heart of the poem is in the harder-to-explain idea of the title.

"Just a tiny crack separates this world
from the next, and you step over it
      every day,
God is in the cracks."

I think it's interesting to know that Robert Sward's father, a podiatrist, came to the United States from Russia and that his life experiences (like the death of his wife) made him convert from Judaism to Rosicrucianism, a philosophical secret society. Living in the Jewish North Side of Chicago, his father practiced his religion in their basement, which figures in his collection, Rosicrucian in the Basement, where this poem originally appeared.

The religious or spiritual or philosophical theme in this poem is hard to avoid.

It made me think of my own upbringing and the idea that I had two fathers - the father in my house and "God the father" who existed somewhere in heaven.

This idea of every day avoiding those cracks so that you don't cross over to that other world (actually, avoiding God) reminded me of the recurring line in John Irving's novel, The Hotel New Hampshire - "Keep passing the open windows." Don't jump out and end it all, no matter how hard the day and life appear to be right now.

Finally, the title also made me think of the idea of God being "in the gaps." In the always argumentative meeting of science and religion, the religious side often inserts God into the "gaps" that appear in scientific explanations of the universe. Scientists trace back to a big bang where everything including time begins. But what triggered that big bang and what came before it? No answer. So, God fills that gap. It's an argument that angers scientists (Where's the evidence for God?) and pleases the believers because it has to be taken on faith, which stops all reasonable debating.

So, this prompt #4 is my favorite and clearly the most difficult. It is to write about this crack or gap and God and how we step over it every day.  Maybe it also involves fathers and mothers, careers and family, the life of the mind and the everyday life. Maybe it's the support we want from our family that doesn't appear quite so literally as those in our shoes. This work of being a poet is not as easy as it looks.

As always, there is more about this prompt and others and things poetic on the Poets Online blog.


My father's name is Egon,
pronounced egg on.
He grew up in Czechoslovakia
so he pronounces a lot of his words

wrong. I help him with that and in turn
he helps me spell Czechoslovakia.
I'm the only kid in my class who can.
I'm writing it now on the place-mat

at the International House of Pancakes.
We're international, me and Egon,
sitting across from each other in our booth
like nations at the table. A language

is a dialect with an army. So I drill him
in the names of all the syrups, and he
drills me in C-z-e-c-h-o-s-l-o-v-a-k-i-a
while we wait for my pancakes and his eggs.

"Egg on your face," I say to him,
and he reaches for a napkin.
"It's just an expression," I explain,
and he asks me what it means. I say

I'm not sure, but whenever I hear it
it makes me think of him. "You have Egon
on your face," he says. And I patiently
correct him. But he says again, "You have

Egon on your face--you have my nose
and mouth and chin. Egon on your face--
and you can't wipe him off."
Paul Hostovsky


Once you say a few billion people
It is no longer a crack in the pavement
Or a line in the dust where kids have drawn
To indicate what's fair or foul.

A dictator had it right, in ones brain
Or in the beating of an arrhythmic heart
Where everything is mushed together
Those who are close in love or hate
Have an index finger on our pulse
Though some use a thumb to count
And in actuality feel their own heart.

The lines of time and death count forever,
Not like drops of blood or tears
Which one can gather up in cups.
There is a title to a play,
"A Door should be Open or Shut,"
That comes to be an ironic comedy.
More recently there is one, 'No Exit.'

Edward N. Halperin


The rain pounds against the troops ponchos and head gear.
Shots and explosions ring in the midst of the meadow.
“Sergeant Buck, we need to evacuate! The enemies are closing in.”
I hear my fellow comrade’s voice but his words slide away from me like the rain on my poncho.
He is telling me something I already knew because I got my answers from the vault of heaven.
I look up to the night sky and notice that one star that shines brighter than the rest.
The single star is superior and shines brighter than the moon its self.
From the illuminated gold gleam in the thick of the night I recognize the glow.
It’s no one other than my heavenly being and guardian angel.
The one who protects me whenever I feel alone and afraid.
The one I can count on to show me the way when no one else can.
I remember my father’s words before he died like the ingrained name on his dog tag,
that hung low on a chain around my neck beside my own tag.
“If you’re ever feeling lost and you need me, I want you to look to the stars.”
At that time I had been young and foolish. “But you’ll be okay, right? You’re not leaving me.”
Despite the fact that he had been battling the cell killing disease he had said. “Never,”
Funny, how a disease was able to kill someone so strong as my father but not a life at war.
But when he did perish after holding on for years I knew he was still with me.
His soul is no longer in its vessel but still remains with me amongst the stars.
And whenever I am looking for answers I know who to look to guide me back home again.
Help me get these boys home safely I thought to my father has I slung on my backpack.
The star sets off a shooting star and I know exactly who it’s from.

Breanna Calvin


In bygone days
A man knew well
Where his labours led,
Followed the seasons
And each man knew
How to tether the beast
That allowed him to plow
His rows of grain
In bygone days

In times now lost
He would till and sow
Watch his seedlings grow
And tender* all, row upon row
And his son might weed
And his daughter bake
And milk the goats
And prune the vine
In times now lost

There was a time
We’d awake at dawn
In the cold we'd dress
Breath before us plain
As the morning fog
Rolled over the fields
‘til the sun said shoo !
And it disappeared -
There was such a time

Who these days
Understands his work
Has time time to find out
What living’s about.
Takes a task well done
To enjoy repose
When the harvest’s in
And you’re proud it’s done
...hardly anyone

Ilona Grieland


We step over mystic boundaries
                simply by breathing, laughing, existing.
We step over by having our heart wrenched
                with a certain song that connects us to a distant memory.
We step over by forgiving the person that cut us off in traffic
                probably because they may be having a bad day.
We step over by holding  the hand of a dying loved one
                in the final fleeting moments of their life.
A higher power may not have wanted us to experience
                the pain of a memory,
                                or the anger towards a stranger,
                                                or saying good bye to a beloved family member.
But we do anyway.
This shows the chink in the armor of a higher power
                Or is this free will that we – as humans –
 Exercise on a daily basis?

Kristie Stilley


People would call me gregarious,
but there is a solitude that walks with me
even in a crowd.
It is my north star,
my raison d'etre.
It demands nothing of me but to be still,
to let my struggles slide into oblivion
so that I may absorb the wordless Everything.

Solitude is not to be confused with emptiness.
Indeed, it is the opposite.
It fills me with unknown song,
stretches my inner frontiers
and brings me home.
And when I am sated,
I return to my other world
to share the wealth.

Barbara Caldwell


Falcon rise— yellow racing eyes,
Blue wraith that rakes the skies,
Never has one fared such beauty,
Airs naught wholey bright as thee.

Is there a kneel for end of days—
Songs, deeds for those who prey?
Is there light breaking pied wings,
Or is heaven overlord to all things?

Sun spots feathering coated crest,
Talons top spires mountain breast,
When rivers of the wind fail all fowl,
What grace and splendor in a cowl?

Is there a psalm in the wailing winds,
A hymn that carries all innocent sins,
Or a fable, blue as stupendous skies,
A truest place where redemption lies?

The sea slides with lost ocean birds
And blue wings coast, row unheard,
Edging the skies with razors' tinge,
Seeding the immortal spark begins.

Falcon rise— yellow racing eyes,
Blue wraith that rakes the skies,
Never has one fared such beauty,
Naught airs wholey bright as thee.

Sean Mac Falls

Just a tiny crack separates this world
from the next, and you step over it
every day.
God is in the cracks.

But what if the world is seamless
with no gaps
between this world and the next?

What if no locatable self
can be found?

Where is God then?

Bobbie Townsend

“O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;/ No more of that.” King Lear (III. iv. 22-23)

They want answers, certainty,
as Dostoyevsky said so long
ago, a basis on which to act,
a justification for what in their
rational lives would seem
extreme, would make them
opposites of the righteous they
know themselves to be.

How they juggle such mental
mendacity, keep such tidy houses,
is a mystery explored by Orwell
and other plumbers of the human
brain; their plastic thoughts
contain multitudes, reconcile
opposites, harmonize basic
doctrines with acidic.

You’d think the Enlightenment
had not occurred, Kant not wound
the clocks in Königsberg, that all
the data we’ve amassed on stars
and atoms do not show one single
hint of an immortal soul, that
evolution, which they see in viruses,
didn’t work on them.

What’s the difference between a
burning bush, an empty tomb,
a desert wind, golden tablets, and
equally absurd beliefs in ghosts,
fate, or aliens? When voices speak
in prophets’ heads, it's revelation;
when they speak in ordinary Joe's’,
it's insanity; meds can cure them.

The will to believe, said James,
trumps reason every time; the need
for absolution vilifies the mind; the
difference between one metaphysic
and another cannot be shown
since evidence cannot be brought
to bar, so both are equally true, or
equally absurd, as Kant discerned.

Without evidence we should not
hang a man, nor believe in the
huckster nor the politician—no
more should we believe pope,
rabbi, or imam who claim truth
transcendent, demanding that in
this sphere alone the rules of logic
don’t apply—that faith alone abides.

Once evidence is shunned, hope
and fear preside, imagination
takes the reins, and soon we’re
on a tide of swelling passion
that swamps the circuits of the
brain, shuts the doors of empathy,
and turns “I think, therefore I am”
into righteous terror’s reign.

Robert Miller


My father’s memories went back to mythical times.
He could remember when the hills across the Lackawanna River
Had yet to be raised from the slate waste of coal mines.

He could describe the bridge
That was torn down years before I was born,
And say he was exactly halfway across it that evening

Eighty years ago, when he was eleven,
Running to his father who was returning
From his twelve hour shift in those mines

To tell him his three year old sister had died;
How his father shook his head and said,
“I expected it.”

And because of what he says, I see under the hills
The floodplain on the far side of the river,
And I feel the wobbly bridge beneath my feet,

And I hear the brute acceptance of
“I expected it.”

Ron Yazinski


I sensed the possibility appear,
Jump from quantum when to quantum now
And back again
Before I could turn my head
To see only air reflect a blur of possibilities
That disappeared into superposition.
Now I will have to walk on
In my macro-realistic world
Accompanied by what might be
Trying to decide if a step here or a step there
Could knock the wrong event out of the possible
Into reality.

Marvin Lurie


I was wrapped
in yards of curtain cloth
appliqued seams ivory & cream
billow flowers at the hem.
I had been for a few generations
peering through the tulle
the bits of lace
faces had changed but little
alleles shuffled played
with grace matchless
hims hers
continuums of kin
all were birthed
all bathed in senses
think inevitable sorrow angst
tinsels of delight
like a dip in a mountain lake.
And me draped part home
part apart wait
here so long as
needs for me
someone remembers.
Then without a name
I undress
am naked particles
in light.

Mary Orovan


In the famous Michelangelo
God stretches his hand a little, without touching
Is caught forever in the act of stretching out
To Adam and the world. The space is the thing
The invitation, imputation, declaration of that gently pointing finger
The languid hand of Man, half-reluctant to receive, passively receptive,
seductively beautiful
The Old Man and his once-innocent self; His wisdom conditional on youth's
I wonder
What moves within the gap? What did you see with your all-seeing eye,
Michelangelo, what?
I have known people who shed real tears as they fall down, swooning in
ecstasy and wondered at
The chemical composition of that holy water that lies upon the cheek, the
structure of joy
The exultation, or relief, that responsibility for pain has been lifted as
easily as an eyebrow

Is irony enough to quell the doubt
That lies between the offered, and received?
Does God stand between those old foes, Science and Religion, holding them
His plodding and quick-witted Sons; or does he ask them to shake hands and
make up
Examine their beliefs, faith and fact, wistfulness and logic
Objective observation and the half-closed eye of the imagination
And point out all is Good and Wonderful, that Evolution is transcendent Art
And solutions must remain provisional until He packs away His brushes and
His clay

Iris Lavell


That parallel universe, mirror-image
of this imperfect one where even the sweetest
pollens cause pain. They say we become
sensitive from too much exposure; grow allergic
to the things we love. We have no storage
capacity for happiness.
In that other universe, the principal entrepreneur
is a poet, or a lutenist, a flutist of such fine
sensibility, he would cause this flawed world
a sneezing fit. Or maybe, that other-world artist
isn’t even human, but a brother-creature;
a monkey, or a dog, with senses tuned beyond
what you and I perceive. That universe
is right next door, if only we could find it;
on the other side of an osmotic membrane,
a meniscus that holds every color in its clear
curved surface.
Listen to me fumbling for a scientific word
for that gap between, while my dog
simply dashes through the open door, leaping
the threshold crack in her sheer
exuberance, knowing God’s there.

Taylor Graham


Something that’s always
puzzled me:
Does the Creator watch us
on celestial teevee
the way we watch Breaking Bad?
If so, can
He (She? It?) switch channels?
(To other worlds, galactic variety shows?)
When does He get up for beer
and pretzels, since there are
(I assume)
no commercials?
But most of all, I wonder
what if our series is cancelled?
Of course, if someone with
can swing the deal,
we may come back
in syndication.

R. Bremner


As the moon comes up,
let's walk to the pier's end.

There is space to sit and cast.
Our lines will seem to disappear.

What light the water reflects
will not betray the universe below.

The multitude are safe.
We can imagine the ones who get away.

Let's pretend the pier goes on.
Invisible boards meet the horizon

With a bridge beyond where
we can set down our gear.

Let's go this way.

Anita Sanz