Simple, linear stories are easy to comprehend and are therefore attractive to many people. God rewards the believers and punishes the unbelievers at the end of history. Or the earth, devoid of a divine mandate, simply dies with the sun billions of years from now. Parents and children with differing beliefs either reconcile their differences or grow apart for good. A person or creature has little tangible presence on earth after death. The true story, of course, is often more complicated and cyclical than people think—as the speaker in this poem recognizes, perhaps, in a moment of heightened awareness. Transcendence—though it’s a fleeting moment in yet another cycle—helps the speaker cope with the psychological burden of feeling like a prodigal child well into adulthood.
Nathanael Tagg has received his BA and MA in English. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where he teaches writing courses at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Metropolitan Community College. When he isn’t teaching or spending time with loved ones, he’s often enjoying the process of understanding experience—and transforming it, perhaps—through poetry.
Never mind the choir trumpeting through my radio
—proclaiming the second coming—as the red sun falls behind
purple clouds, as I drive to see my middle-aged parents.
They worry about my soul out of love, so I avoid the
subject out of love, talking instead of cars and kitchens
and—my favorite—their fox-like dog who'd lick you all
the same if you said heaven's no place for his kind of soul.
Why do I imagine the choir as a multitude of my mothers
and fathers, somehow packed inside a country church, their
voices prodding one boy toward a man wading in a river?
As the song crescendos and the sun appears to speed up
before it dips into the dark pond of outer space, I don't
anticipate an eternity in paradise. Could I forever endure a
beauty brighter, happier than this? I don't search the clouds
for Jesus, though I was right to do so as a child, if only to
confess that skies and worlds in flux demand our attention.
Instead, I see those who've looked, or are looking, or will
look at the star that freezes time, even as it keeps the time:
Dinosaurs not expecting a meteorite, Neanderthals learning
to read the weather, wild dogs strategizing on the savanna,
slaves building the pyramids, new flowers opening their
petals at last, blue whales surfacing before going who
knows where to mate, rodents watching for the hawk's axe-
like figure, fallen soldiers giving up the ghost, emperors,
prostitutes, and you—so I do see God. And I will say it
was a good trip when my parents ask the same old questions,
and now, in the dark, on their country lane, the singers hold
a final note with haunting confidence before the applause
and the hush of night.