I recollect when God would stab
a lightning bolt in the ground beside
a man who’d wandered into the realm
of wrong, and the man would come to his senses
and change, and spend the rest of his days
reciting the incident and how
it made him the thankfullest man on earth.
It was a sign old God was watching,
and a further sign the Man Upstairs
was pretty good with a lightning bolt—
right in the ground beside the sinner,
who came away with only a smudge
on his face and a wonderful song in his heart.
That would be something to sing about,
the relief from grief.
…………………………………The realm of wrong—
now there’s a curious way to say it.
It’s allegorical and real
at once, and cannot be divided.
But division is a powerful art,
a part to set apart from the whole
and leave it wandering and lonely.
The days of lightning bolts are gone,
I’d say—old God has moved along.
He might be out of lightning bolts.
The days of common sinners are gone
as well. The realm of wrong is now
another realm. There’s nothing else
to do but take the banjo down
and play the devil out of it.
I’m thinking of a mournful tune,
and the sound of bugs below the moon.
And the human quiet coming soon,
after the singing of the tune.
Also by Maurice Manning (see all)
- Place and the Composition of Poetic Self - February 27, 2023
- The Invention of Hooky - September 22, 2022
- Two Shadows - June 10, 2019