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We print your name on dollars

            And are sure you stand over everything we say is under God

            And all nations assume you are on their side and always have been,

                       war in and war out,

            And every religion understands you better than every other religion,

                      and you in turn lean towards each with special inclinations.


            You are called on to bless babies and aircraft carriers

            And you are ceremoniously and endlessly praised on the basis that

                        flattery will get us somewhere.

            But there are those who pray as though tendering a bribe payable

                        on installments

            So as to accumulate years in this life and credits in the next.

            Some of us make you out a broker who supplieth needs and wants

            Attorney who defendeth against hard claims

            Expunger of guilts who cleareth the conscience so we may be free

                        to muck it up again

            Housekeeper of the soul who cometh in to clean once a week;

            King of accountants auditing our secret selves,

            Liquidating our trespasses as we liquidate those who trespass

                        against us,

            Keeping batteries of books filled with fateful identifications,

            Entering as much the fall of a sparrow as the crash of a plane.


            But there have been complaints against you—charges of malfeasance,

            Implications of sleeping on the job, trigger temper, proneness to


            Tantrums that have consumed too many of the innocent with

                      too few of the heinous.


Some of your public begrudge you the benefit of doubt and doubt

                      your beneficence

            Protesting that it was antic of you to begin with, if we are to swarm like maggots

                      on a rind too meager to support our duplicating billions.

            Some say the noblest ideas were set down by man

            And that you have been served by holy ghost writers beyond your


            They say that the whole conspicuous distance between the worm

                      and Einstein, the drone of the bee and Beethoven,

            The entire interval has been filled with struggles trailing blood:

            Ages of frightened proto-men, heavy with ignorance, recoiling

                      in profligate floods, perishing in earthquakes, staggering

                      into the unknown,

            Their wails and brute chants and broken grunts fructifying at last

                      into songs and sonnets and hallelujahs to your glory.

            —Well, dissidents suggest that during this grand span you sat it

                      out; that in the vasty meanwhile you went off to fish in

                      deeper currents.


           Lately it was announced that you are dead

           Which means several things besides the receiver being off the

                        hook when we dial you.

           It means that time must carry on by itself,

           And stars pinwheel through incandescent deserts and bottomless

                        voids, all on an orderly hunch;

           It means the arching upward from the mud has been a drunken

                        course, and purposeless, and hardly worth the trip;

           It means the very mansion of existence has no windows, and is

                         just a big white elephant boarded up and haunted by your


           It means that springtime is a come-on and a put-on, and not at all

                        a show of dogged life, a riot of chlorophyll, a surge of sap

                        and elixirs from wells so deep no radar pulse can ever

                        return to tell what and where it touched;

          It means that the love of man and woman is a table of percentages,

                        and their desire a disease of the id;

          It means that birth is a happening between pills,

                        and old age a phase held together by plastic parts;

           It means that the heart of man is replaceable as soon as the donor is

                        legally dead

           And death is a package deal with the best advertised mortuary.


           So, God: if you are alive and in that heaven we have come to know

                        is spotty with systems of gravity, each pulling for itself,

            Then perhaps you must flex the muscle of divine authority to get

                        back in office

            Because your antique miracles have been trumped by solemn


            Daily the patent office registers intenser magic than the burning


            The serpent from the rod becomes a ruby laser;

            The leper is healed by mycins;

            The blind draw vision from an eye bank.


            That being the case, dear busy God, please manifest thyself

                        through one superlative, new-minted covenant:

           Create for the lot of us—all nations indivisible—an Act of God

                        more stupendous than mere parting waters or a

                        standing sun

           A miracle harder to come by, that would, if consummated,

                        cause dry bones from all the hundred holocausts to meet

                        and dance,

           And charter stars to sing together in the brightest chancels of

                        imponderable space.


            And this is what that miracle would be:


           That man should love his kind in all his skins and pigments,

           And kill no more.



           That we should love our kind

           And kill no more.


           Yes, granted, such a miracle is asking very much of you

           But it is long past time to ask.


“The Secretariat” broadcast November 1997 on NPR

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