Pushcart 2015: D. A. Powell, “Calling All Gods” (Poetry) from KenyonReview, Vol.XXXV #2

"Abandoned Boat House" by Carrie O'Brien Sibley (modified)

“Abandoned Boat House” by Carrie O’Brien Sibley (modified)

Because I stand with my great unknowing yap and pray for speech.
Because I would open my body like a rasping bellows and have you fill it.
I do not know your name.

I first thought this was, per the title and the pervasive religious imagery, a one-sided conversation with a divinity who maintains a distance. The combination of religion and sex was irresistible; I gathered some sources on the uses of sexual imagery in religious texts and liturgy from the Judeo-Christian bible to Vajrayana Buddhism. I had a lot of fun.

But I read the poem again and wondered: is the poem instead about the night, about darkness? Or are they the same thing, for this speaker, a would-be worshiper of the night? In either case, the longing is unrequited, the unloved lover craving intimacy but receiving only the bare mechanics. It’s horribly sad, full of desperate longing, intensified by the title.

The final verse seems to indicate, finally, a fulfillment of the longing, and a line I love though I don’t fully understand its import: “Abandoned boathouse hallelujah.” I get the feeling this is all not about religion, or the night, but sex pure and simple, phrased in mystical terms. In any case, that boathouse – I’m intrigued. What is it that happened there? And if I can’t understand a poem, being intrigued is the next best thing. Maybe even the better thing.

An interesting side-note about the title: in the Pushcart TOC (at least the paperback edition I have) the poem is listed as “Calling All Odds”. That strikes me as a wonderfully amusing typo. What is a god, if not odd? And what is a god, if not one who defies the human odds?


2 responses to “Pushcart 2015: D. A. Powell, “Calling All Gods” (Poetry) from KenyonReview, Vol.XXXV #2

    • I didn’t have a very good handle on this one. Not that I’m complaining – sometimes a poem takes me all over the place, but that’s kind of fun. No reason it can’t be about more than one thing. That’s kind of what poetry does in general.

      I keep getting flashbacks to “Calling all Angels” – both of them – from the title, it gets in the way. Or the Unknown God thing in Greece. Sometimes I have so many associations to something, it gets in the way of seeing what’s on the page.

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