Faith

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I’ve been thinking about faith a lot lately. Faith that allows us to trust, to leap in the face of uncertainty. To allow others to catch us. To have faith that they will not let us fall. We do this all the time–whether we want to or not. As we navigate traffic, send our children to school, fall in love, tell our stories at open mics. Faith is belief that acknowledges the necessity of hope. Without my faith I could not cross the street in this soft body. Without the faith of the men and women in my writing groups–in me and in one another–we could not feel what we do, could not keep getting better.

All the good in the world runs on faith that is met with love. And our capacity to keep extending faith in spite of all the heartbreak and loss and unmet expectation, to keep feeling gratitude when it’s met by love–is perhaps the greatest case that could be made for faith.

On Sunday, I went to a reading by the divine powerhouse Elmaz Abinader and brought home a (signed!) copy of her newest collection of poems, This House, My Bones. It’s really something this book. To be read and read and read again. I like to be surprised by poems–nothing gimmicky, a gasp will do. These poems quietly surprise. And in it was the poem below.

Read this poem and then copy the title onto your page and record your own. What is faith? What evidence of faith have you witnessed, do you witness? What evidence of faith do you display? What terrifies you in the way it calls you to stand on the precipice, desperate to jump, desperate to believe, to fall?

That isn’t Faith, This is

for John Herman

You listen
more attentive than most
take mental notes
of where the knife
will enter your chest
where the underground
routes to your heart
have jammed
and need a bull
dozer to clear the way
replace the cables
resurge the flow

and you retell
it all like a good story
you heard maybe
from the person
sitting next to you
on the plane with
pictures, arrows
and instructions

and I find it funny
that of all the ideologies
that move through
our lives, the gods
false and divine,
the mantras and rosaries
the litanies and songs
the literatures and dogmas
we pray for that knife
to hit right

to not stray, for
the steadiness
of the hand that slips
a vessel from your
leg into your chest
that connects the tubes
like a master pipefitter
it’s a lot to expect

from someone and not
god who you may or may
not believe in, someone
who learns your name
ever so briefly, doesn’t
know what your heart
means and to whom.

I call it faith, letting
yourself sleep surrounded
by people you don’t know
giving your body to
their hands, exposing
the contents of your
heart the way you have
to so few or so many

and I hope that
your heart in their hands
knows a kindness
that strangers give
to one another in brave
circumstances: floods
births, confusion
and fear. This is all
we can believe. That
you may return
refueled and cloudless
love replaced with love
a heart come stronger.

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