Maybe Faith Isn’t Unlike a Photon &

Asking More from Discovery

by Rosebud Ben-Oni

In my poem “Poet Wrestling with God as One of Us,” published in the latest issue of Cream City Review, I tried to make God one of us. I tried to make up God as matter or a thing, like us. Tried to make God abide by time. Imagined that God began like one of us. Imagined hobbies, mood swings, squabbles {that we’ve shared}. For most of my life, I’ve experienced intense stretches of solitude. Not loneliness per se, but being lost in my own head, even while being present, even while having full conversations with those I loved and those I worked with. In a room full of people, say, while giving a reading of my work, there was another part of me, elsewhere, trying to make God one of us.

I did this in how I used to pray. In how I looked at human suffering and success. In how I wrote my own poems and prose.

In doing this, {I} was trying very hard to relate to a great abstraction, in the sense I was trying to receive something from it. Receive answers, comfort, a sense of security. Feel a less little doubt and loneliness about my own uncertain timeline. Make unclear, diaphanous it like my own flesh, my own blood.

In this poem, I also imagined {a} God capable of regret. A disenchanted mystic, a disappointed prizefighter, one who {I} could rescue, one I’d unconceal as a being whose true self was the opposite of the patriarchy. How we could live gloriously in this post-patriarchal world. I listened to the tug-and-pull of celestial gender in my heart. I wanted to rescue, not be rescued. I listened to the Joan Osborne song which inspired the poem’s title. I feel asleep thinking of this poem, and heard in a rush of blood in fingers, arms, chest. I heard wild ewes and their lambs running from armed helicopters. I heard the bitterness of a man who could not stop sounding the alarm, marching into war, enlisting hoards of those just like him, drawing their swords, polishing their pistols. I heard all of them rushing toward me. One by one, I was wiped out. I was put to death. The last one standing, the four-legged me cornered in an open plain, kicking, rising up on two legs.

I woke up wondering, among many things, why I too needed a hero.

Why I was trying to make sense of something not human in human.

I’m glad I wrote this poem.

Often, writing poems that help you make sense of where you are will help you to get to where you need to be.

Because now I’m convinced God is more like a {fundamental} force and a disturbance in that force.

Rather: God is not a thing at all, but an event.

And maybe faith is a quantum of a {yet-unnamed} field in theoretical physics.

I mean, for example, think of faith like a photon in the sense that the moment a photon appears in the electromagnetic field and can be discovered, it vanishes. But the field has always been real. It’s always there. I explore this in my forthcoming collection from Alice James, If This Is the Age We End Discovery, and what I believe is the what of what God as a force longs for the most, but can never quite get. A force that I call “Efes,” which is Modern Hebrew for “Zero,” but means much more than that.

I consider myself a person of faith. I consider myself a Jew, though my Judaism differs greatly from that in which I studied in Hebrew school. I think of God now as a force, a realness that keeps cloaked in mystery, because perhaps it’s the detection of the mystery itself that is the answer. Just like our frustrating friend the photon.

In writing the poems that made up If This Is the Age We End Discovery, I had to write a poem like “Poet Wrestling with God as One of Us” first because I truly was wrestling with the often frustrating and strange evolution of humanity. How do we break from the natural hierarchies within life as it is today? Why do we keep repeating the same violences using the old linguistic backbones, those sexist, racist and xenophobic clichés that then shape our reality? How would we ever achieve social freedom without true economic freedom? What would a world look like if we truly decided that resources should be universal and that everyone have had a chance in pursuing their dreams and passions, if everyone had a hand in what would larger discovery?

There’s one possible answer to the Theory of Everything, which of course is not the same Theory of Everything of theoretical physics. It does not contain the same troubling questions that scientists are asking today.

But maybe they should.

No, they should.


Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a 2013 CantoMundo Fellow; her most recent collection, turn around, BRXGHT XYXS, was selected as Agape Editions’ EDITORS’ CHOICE, and will be published in 2019. Her poem “Poet Wrestling with Angels in the Dark” was commissioned by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC.