Friday, July 29, 2011

5. Effects of Early "Religious Abuse"

Hi friends, Justin here.

This is my favorite poem.  It's by James Merrill.  I remember finding it, I think when I was in high school, as I was flipping through an enormous collection of Merrill's poetry in a bookstore.  It's been tossing around in my head for years.  It's part of a longer poem titled "Family Week at Oracle Ranch."

This part goes:

"The great recurrent 'sinner' found
In Dostoyevski--twisted mouth,
Stormlit eyes--before whose irresistible
Unworthiness the pure in heart bow down . . .

Cockcrow.  Back across the frozen Neva
To samovar and warm, untubercular bed,
Far from the dens of vodka, mucus, and semen,
They dream.  I woke, the fever

Dripping insight, a spring thaw.
You and the others, wrestling with your demons,
Christs of self-hatred, Livingstones of pain,
Had drawn the lightning.  In a flash I saw

My future: medic at some Armageddon
Neither side wins.  I burned with SHAME for the years
You'd spent among sufferings uncharted--
Not even my barren love to rest your head on."

James Merrill (taken by Rollie McKenna in 1952)
Image source:

Poem source:

Merrill, James. "5. Effects of Early 'Religious Abuse'" The Best of the Best American Poetry, 1988-1997. Ed. Harold Bloom and David Lehman. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998. 204-05. Google. Web (Google eBook). 30 July 2011. <>.

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