The Arty Semite

National Poetry Month: 'In the World He Created According to His Will'

By Ezra Glinter

  • Print
  • Share Share

The poetic practice of praising God through his works is of such long standing (as long as the history of religious poetry, perhaps) that it would seem difficult, if not impossible, to offer a new and contemporary take on the tradition. But in the title poem of David Caplan’s recent collection, “In the World He Created According to His Will,” Caplan manages to turn the form inside out, while still creating a deeply spiritual meditation on nature, human relationships, and God. Here, instead of perceiving God through nature, the opposite is the case — the beauty of a natural scene is imbued with a spiritual aura thanks to the prayer uttered by the speaker’s partner. “What returns you to these words/ in the pause between tides, the rising/ and falling back not only of water?” Here God is as much a means as an end, with the supplicant’s prayer binding the rest of the poem’s elements together.

Caplan is a professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan University and a contributing editor to the Virginia Quarterly Review and Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing. His poetry has been published in the New England Review and the Antioch Review and he is the author of “Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form,” among other books.


In the World He Created According to His Will
For Paul Germain

I

The fishermen return in light so pure
they barely see the bay beneath their dories,
the familiar shimmering where morning burns
to afternoon, spring almost to summer

So they row by rote toward the spindly-legged pier,
the seawall shading the beach to mud.

You, waking, looking at me as if I too were water.

II

Our pace is too pedestrian to disturb
the seagulls on rails, lording over us.
The sidewalk is an upturned pal, its lifelines
longer than towns.

Waving off my elbow, you tell me
something so softly I cannot hear it
sbove the low-tide, midsummer whispers
of the surf. So softly, a joke is a story,

a story a question. I wish I knew
how to listen harder, without pity,
not only to you …
Your hand grips my arm.

We walk shorter, slower.

III

You’re stronger, today.
The staccato mumble of wind-helped rain
that I wake to is you
praying in the next bedroom.

The Lord our God, the Lord is one …
What returns you to these words
in the pause between tides, the rising
and falling back not only of water?

Too tired, you quiet.
Past the harbor, trawlers wait
for the nets to fill, the familiar
shallows beneath their lead-ballasted keels

always shifting.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: National Poetry Month, In the World He Created According to His Will, David Caplan, Poetry

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.