One theme. One poet. One memoirist.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What I've Been Told

(Our theme for this week: Light)

Last week, Lauren posted what may be one of my favorite lines that she's ever written: "Loss breaks me. Death shatters me." I love it because of its simplicity and truth. Despite everything I've ever been taught and believe about life after death, death still terrifies me. Infuriates me. Shatters me.

One of my dirtiest secrets as a faithful Roman Catholic and as a student of theology is the fact that I doubt. Whether it's the deposit of faith in the Catholic Church, the constitutive nature of Christ's incarnation, or simply the fact that there is something after this life, I struggle to support this gift of faith.

I think. I question. I theologize. I doubt. And for all of this thinking and theologizing my doubt never seems to lessen.

In the face of loss and death, everything I thought I knew about God seems like nothing more than a platitude. Even when it is something that three days earlier I thought I believed with every fiber of my existence and something I know I will accept again when my period of grieving is over, I want nothing to do with it.

I lack the theological vocabulary to talk about this doubt in an engaging way. I've been exploring it poetically for a few years now. It helps, if nothing else, to put the words down--to admit that I doubt.

As an aesthetic and literary aside, I'm dissatisfied with the final three lines of the poem. Any feedback would be deeply appreciated.


What I’ve Been Told

I have always been told
that when I die everything will be filled
with golden light, angel song,
people I have loved.
Or, burning, blazing light full
of screaming and people like Nero or Stalin.
I am no longer afraid of angel song and golden light
or even of blazing bonfires.
Rather, of discovering nothing but darkness.


  1. From Voltaire: "Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd."

    Those words give me hope as one who considers herself to be a doubting Thomas.

    What if you flipped this poem around and addressed the darkness first? Or, maybe that should just be a theme we address later. As I revisit this poem, I want to know more about where this darkness comes from, why you think it's a possibility. How does the thought of darkness compare to what you've been told?

    And thank you for the compliment...I am grateful.

  2. I'd say the last three lines are getting there but I am sad you cut the line about needing to be good!

  3. Mark, darling, the line about needing to be good is a whole different poem in itself.

    Wanna guestblog for us sometime?