Thursday, April 11, 2013

BPR LIT TRIP 11 with Ricardo Pau-Llosa

Forgive the Steiny Road Poet as she makes her way along the road of the Birmingham Poetry Review volume 40 as paved by Ricardo Pau-Llosa  in his poem “God-Is-Love Man.” The Steiny Poet is not a Christian though she is married to man raised Baptist who once held the Shroud of Turin in his hands (oy!) when he worked at the National Geographic Society many decades ago.

What drew the Steiny Poet to this poem, besides the assertion that this week she would look at poems dealing with love, is the rich language that populates this free verse poem with a narrative thread. Phrases like breakfast hawks, a loving sun of a family person (could this be a polite variant of the rude son of bitch?), flocking of flakes on his lapel (in reference to the eating of an almond pastry) make the Steiny Poet sit up straighter as she reads with pleasure.

The poem is narrated by a man the Steiny Poet believes to be the God-Is-Love Man, who takes issue with “the breakfast hawks, overdressed/ office types who never figure time/ for making coffee and warming/buns, cleaning up, and being/ a loving sun of a family person/ in the morning…/ when tempers were most likely/ to slash and swipe." GIL man might be an employee of the bakery.  In any case, GIL man is a Christian who values family, if not brotherly love.

While the Steiny Poet has figured out God is love comes from the New Testament 1 John, Chapter 4, verse 8—“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love”—and Pau-Llosa’s reference to bread and shoes in the closing lines of his poem—“Will the man, then,/ his number finally called, the last/ almond pastry within his reach,/ settle for the timed quiet of a corner/ broken only by the flocking/ of flakes on his lapel, or will/ he accept the bread and shoes of forgiveness”—comes from the New Testament Timothy 6 (and please don’t ask, Dear Reader which version of the Bible since some of the versions make the line bread and clothes)—“Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough,” the Steiny Poet will merely point to the following powerful but sarcastically comic lines and say that “who might rise from the desert” sounds Biblical and leave it at that:

And who might rise from the desert
of the clean table, and what face
might shape the steam above the Styrofoam,
and what bug will think the crumbs
on the floor of the bakery a delivery
from God?

GIL man wonders where God enters the picture relative to the breakfast hawk by taking his observation down the Great Chain of being to a bug on the floor of the bakery. Would even this bug think the dropped crumbs on the floor would be God given and enough, let alone the man who is covered with flakes of the pastry that he waited for impatiently. GIL man wonders if in the quiet moment of eating that almond pastry if the breakfast hawk would reflect on scaling down what he accepts as enough.

Having just celebrated the holiday of Passover and sung the song “Dayenu,” which means “it would have been enough for us” and deals with being grateful to God for the gifts he gave the Jewish people, such as freeing them slavery, providing the teachings of Torah and the Sabbath but saying any one of these gifts would have sufficient, the Steiny Poet completely gets the message of Ricardo Pau-Llosa’s language rich poem which transcends its particular religious references.

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