David Reads “God on a Tightrope,” by Marjorie Maddox

Susquehanna Sunrise
Susquehanna Sunrise

Well, Easter has passed, and once again I realize that aside from the discussion of certain issues and how they are affected by politics and religion, I rarely ever talk about my own faith or spirituality here on the Dad Poet blog. While I have dedicated multiple posts to feasts, celebrations and songs of Christmas, I don’t know that I have ever made mention of Easter or Passover in these pages.

Perhaps that’s because my faith has evolved, some would say dissolved, over the last twenty years or so, since my days as a ministerial student at Indiana Wesleyan. I wouldn’t say that I have done a complete 180, but I certainly have continued on a path I was already on back then, reading scriptures as metaphor for spiritual truths rather than as commands from above.

Perhaps it is because twenty-five years ago I lost my mother on “Good Friday.” Perhaps it is because winter affects me more than I would like to admit, and the early buds breaking from dirty snow seem creepy, things coming back to life, like some sort of zombie cycle. I know, I know, it sounds silly, but it takes me a while, much the way I wake up slow in the mornings, to feel and have faith in the sunlight of spring. I’ve seen too many April snows.

In any case, while part of me would like to rejoice in the spring solstice, and the magic of colored eggs, symbols of fertility and new life, I am like Thomas. I need to see the scars with blood running in veins beneath the skin. My way of feeling the wounds now healed involves my binoculars, a spotting scope, a local lake and a warm spring breeze on my skin, and the evidence that waterfowl, hawks and songbirds are in fact on the move and migrating toward mating season.

But perhaps the Academy of American Poets has done me a great service by inventing this National Poetry Month here in the United States, as few things stir my soul to life like poetry.

In the spirit of the season I’ve been re-reading poems from Marjorie Maddox’s Weeknights at the Cathedral, a book Brian and I picked up at Marjorie’s reading at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg back in October. I had the honor of reading with some great Pennsylvania poets, including Marjorie that day, first at the State Capitol building and then at the bookstore in Midtown. As an aside, I also plan to make a recording of a poem by Jerry Wemple who also read some of his excellent work that day. That was my second chance to read with Marjorie in 2012. You can find footage from the Sunbury River Festival readings by the water here on the Dad Poet blog in the August archives.

Because of my past history with theology Marjorie recommended Weeknights, and I’m really glad she did. She writes of faith in what Philip C. Kolin calls “come-dic reverence.” His review of her book can be downloaded as a Word file here.  I think he does the book justice, although I rather like her phrase “a vast emptiness of wet” in her poem “Dunstan, Patron Saint of Lighthouse Keepers” in section three of the book.

For a sample of more poems from Weeknights at the Cathedral, please click here.  For day eight of my personal NaPoRecMo project here is my reading of Marjorie Maddox’s poem “God on a Tightrope.”

God on a Tightrope

One pierced foot before the other,
you step from your ivory platform,
curl your toes about the taut wire
as if walking on water.

You balance the air on your arms,
tent shadows on your shoulders.
Spotlights circle your brow like a crown.
In your star-spangled loincloth,
you hover over the multitude,
make the sign of the cross,
take a deep bow,
then dive toward our gaping mouths.

“God on a Tightrope” from Weeknights at the Cathedral by Marjorie Maddox, published in 2006 by WordTech Imprint, Cincinnati, Ohio.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. slpmartin says:

    Such an excellent poem…and a fine reading by you once again.


    1. Isn’t she wonderful? And thank you for the kind compliment!


  2. Wow, what a riveting poem! And amen to what you write in your intro.

    Hey, I just noticed my name over there to the right of this page. Thank you, David, for your very generous words.


    1. You just NOW noticed that? 😉
      And thank you, Jennifer. I value that.
      Yes, I like this poem, and many others of hers. I am thinking of adding a bonus track in her voice from the Capitol readings. I had the honor of getting her lost on the way home from the Harrisburg readings. She’s not only a smart, but a patient soul.


  3. John says:

    Excellent poem … and a most excellent reading.

    “Star-spangled loin cloth” — love that phrase. It is star spangled… it’s the secret keeper, the cloth that hides the truth.


    1. “The secret keeper, the cloth that hides the truth. . . ” John, I hear a daring new poem coming on. You’re going to write it, aren’t you? 🙂


  4. angryricky says:

    Poem reminds me of this scene from Chicago, the execution of a woman innocent of killing her husband, but convicted because she doesn’t speak English: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcC8unY156c


  5. Thank you for this fascinating glimpse into who you are. I’m particularly intrigued by your third paragraph, specifically the progression from (or maybe ‘contrast between’) the first to (or ‘and’) last sentence.

    As always, I enjoyed your reading.


    1. Thank you for that, HC. I thought it wanted to be a poem maybe. I do have a piece called “April Snow,” but I don’t think it’s been here on the blog at all.


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