After Three Years of Silence, A Poem

After Three Years of Silence, A Poem

Christian Wiman’s pen went silent for three years. Poetry about the ineffable just didn’t seem fitting during his intensive bouts of treatment for cancer. And then, one day in what came as a shock to him, he sat down and wrote the line:

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made

The lines flowed into what Mr. Wiman describes as a “highly formal” poem, “Every Riven Thing,” which would end up being the title of a book of poetry. On its face, the poem may appear to be a villanelle, a poem that repeats two lines in every stanza and uses two rhymes throughout the poem. But the syntax of that one line changes in every stanza — and with each change, a nuance of meaning shifts:

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.

From the book Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman. Copyright © 2010 by Christian Wiman. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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