by Barry Silesky


A phone call tells me I’m breathing and the world returns.  Isn’t that what they mean by God?  It must be what we’ve been waiting for. There’s more of course, but this is the center. Leaves gather in front of the dirt, the music has a name I recognize, the terrible gray cold familiar as the rooms, and I’m here again. Call it resurrection. Not that I was dead, but I might as well have been. It’s from a kind of faith hanging around the corner everywhere.

But the job doesn’t change. The dirt must be dug, the cells keep going; I’m not done with anything.  The guy’s coming to fix the toilet and I have to be here.  Still, an old friend promises to take me under her wing on a trip I have to take next week.  Call it the good life, whether I find Him or not.  Maybe enough of the cells will work to fool the onlookers, make the mind believe these are the right clothes and they actually fit. I’m still listening to the story. I know the language is wrong, but isn’t the idea the point?  This must be a prayer.


He’s gone now, whoever it is. Only the idea hangs amid the day’s elements, and it’s more than I can explain. The details that make up its heart keep drifting away like the cat lumped on the corner of the desk, temporarily anyway, as if to remind me “alive” is right here.

Isn’t that the point I wanted to celebrate?  It’s part of the sacred text I’ve always imagined, that hundreds wrote through years and years. The body’s failure, in tedious repetition, is an excuse blocking my view of the pages, the letters I have to answer, the work that organizes the day. Right now the job is to answer the phone and eat. The food is tasteless, which is another thing to get used to. We all want it to mean something, but it’s a question of perspective.  This very account is that view, comprising the work I intended, and the thank-you too, with the petition for the rest.  Call it a hymn.


The usual hum of machines: call it the world and try again, and harder, the mind says.  This is what they mean by conscious. It’s the prayer I can only know by this language.  Eventually it falls into nothing, but right now this is the very hand that’s shaking me, telling me to look up, to walk to the next room, to open the window. The rain is coming, though it hasn’t started yet, but the fact is unmistakable as the job:  look out!  It’s right there! Whatever’s “divine” is the rain; the name doesn’t matter.  It’s ready whenever I face it.
This must be the time then.  Except it’s overcome by the mind’s failure to rise, to be aware and attend, while the storm passes through. All that remains is the same static— the symphony in the next room, the book on the table, the blank, crowded with more than I can list, and incomprehensible.  Someone’s coming even now, and though I’m never ready, I know how to pretend, say the words, take a breath and wait. I swear I hear you.


Less than a month and it’s spring training again. A frosting of new snow brightens the street; there are reasons to live. This isn’t one, but I’ll wake up soon, and the refrigerator’s got plenty of food.  In fact, I’ll get something to eat as soon as I’m done with this.  And remember the books set out across the room?  Add a short prayer and the whole day begins to assume a shape I can recognize. Easier said than done, but hey, saying is the start. Just don’t get hopes up for the rest. Hard to know when the flu grips down, something smashes a window, and the storm blows in. But the possibilities are everywhere.  The new world could be right here, about to begin even now.

By the end of the week, the paper say, the snow will start to melt and the star the team needs will sign.  Sky clear, no noise, there’s plenty to explain, and the reason we’re looking could be anywhere. Smetana ‘s death in 1884 for instance.  And now they think Chopin was epileptic.  He’s someone else who didn’t have visions of a different world.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t right here, waiting, but more is always required: the guy to fix the broken fan. That sweater, right there.  Whatever you left on the table. The thing is to keep watching.


“Today things are more complicated.” –The Evolution of God, Robert Wright

All the keys hang by the door and the wind howls. When the cold takes over, we hunch against it, warm enough not to move. There’s nothing else to ask for, but the phone rings and more is required. More what is the obvious question and the logical place to start. It begins with anything new, which should be enough, and if it doesn’t work, there’s a boxful of candy, a light, a postcard that must be answered. Now! The storm in the South Seas may begin the whole process, combined with the faint siren outside dying away. The job: look up.  Put on the clean clothes.  Do something you haven’t done.  This isn’t it, but anything can be the place the mind crouches, poised in the starting blocks, gun about to shoot. Then it does. A little music?  Red? Green? Combined with the dog barking and the El train heading downtown, all the elements are here. The machine keeps humming.
But where is He— the one who explains the love and terror, and makes sense of this manic foraging?  Wasn’t that the point of the dream I felt so powerfully and can’t remember?  Maybe. Now I can put in the sound of the plane and look for the new planet they’ve found.

About the Author:

Poet, biographer, and editor Barry Silesky was born in 1949 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He earned a BA from Northwestern and an MA from the University of Illinois-Chicago. His books of poetry include The New Tenants (1992), Greatest Hits, 1980–2000, and The Disease: Poems (2006). He has also published a book of micro-fiction, One Thing That Can Save Us (1994). He is a noted biographer, and his biographies include Ferlinghetti: The Artist in His Time (1990) and John Gardner: Literary Outlaw (2004). Silesky lives in the shadows of Wrigley Field with his wife, fiction writer Sharon Solwitz.