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MISSING GOD



"The title ‘Missing God’ is ambiguous – deliberately I’m sure. The word missing is either an adjective – as in the ‘missing link’ – or else a gerund – a verb’s functioning as a noun, the state of missing someone, in this case, God.


The poem is unusual in being written in the second person plural – we, our – rather than the more usual first person singular or third person of most poems.


By using ‘we’ the speaker in Dennis O’Driscoll’s poem is assuming a universality of feeling, that all of us, in the registry office, the crematorium, etc are collectively, ‘missing God’."- Victoria Field, one-time poet-in-residence at Truro Cathedral.



His grace is no longer called for before meals: farmed fish multiply without His intercession. Bread production rises through disease-resistant grains devised scientifically to mitigate His faults.


Yet, though we rebelled against Him like adolescents, uplifted to see an oppressive father banished – a bearded hermit – to the desert, we confess to missing Him at times.


Miss Him during the civil wedding when, at the blossomy altar of the registrar’s desk, we wait in vain to be fed a line containing words like ‘everlasting’ and ‘divine’.

Miss Him when the TV scientist explains the cosmos through equations,

leaving our planet to revolve on its axis aimlessly,

a wheel skidding in snow.


Miss Him when the radio catches a snatch of plainchant

from some echoey priory;

when the gospel choir raises its collective voice

to ask Shall We Gather at the River?

or the forces of the oratorio converge

on I Know That My Redeemer Liveth

and our contracted hearts lose a beat.


Miss Him when a choked voice at the crematorium recites the poem about fearing no more the heat of the sun.


Miss Him when we stand in judgement on a lank Crucifixion in an art museum, its stripe-like ribs testifying to rank.


Miss Him when the gamma-rays recorded on the satellite graph seem arranged into a celestial score, the music of the spheres, the Ave Verum Corpus of the observatory lab.


Miss Him when we stumble on the breast lump for the first time and an involuntary prayer escapes our lips; when a shadow crosses our bodies on an x-ray screen; when we receive a transfusion of foaming blood sacrificed anonymously to save life.


Miss Him when we exclaim His name spontaneously in awe or anger as a woman in a birth ward calls to her long-dead mother.


Miss Him when the linen-covered dining table holds warm bread rolls, shiny glasses of red wine.


Miss Him when a dove swoops from the orange grove in a tourist village just as the monastery bell begins to take its toll.


Miss Him when our journey leads us under leaves of Gothic tracery, an arch of overlapping branches that meet like hands in Michelangelo’s Creation.


Miss Him when, trudging past a church, we catch a residual blast of incense, a perfume on par with the fresh-baked loaf which Milosz compared to happiness.


Miss Him when our newly-fitted kitchen comes in Shaker-style and we order a matching set of Mother Ann Lee chairs.


Miss Him when we listen to the prophecy of astronomers that the visible galaxies will recede as the universe expands.


Miss Him when the sunset makes its presence felt in the stained glass window of the fake antique lounge bar.


Miss Him the way an uncoupled glider riding the evening thermals misses its tug.


Miss Him, as the lovers shrugging shoulders outside the cheap hotel ponder what their next move should be.

Even feel nostalgic, odd days, for His Second Coming, like standing in the brick dome of a dovecote after the birds have flown.




ABOUT DENNIS O’DRISCOLL


Born on January 1, 1954 in Thurles, County Tipperary, Dennis O'Driscoll was the child of James and Catherine F., a salesman/horticulturist and a homemaker. Both his parents had died by the time he was 20, and he was left in charge of his five siblings. Mortality and work would become two of his literary preoccupations.


After completing his secondary education, at age sixteen, O'Driscoll was offered a job at Ireland's Office of the Revenue Commissioners the internal revenue and customs service. Specializing in "death duties, stamp duties, and customs," he was employed for nearly forty years full-time. In an age when poets tend to hover near schools and universities, Dennis O'Driscoll, was an exception. To the Irish Times, O’Driscoll said: "In the civil service you are assigned a grade. You know your status, whereas with poetry, you never retire and you never really know your grade – it will be assigned posthumously." O'Driscoll wrote nine books of poetry, and many essays and reviews. The majority of his works were characterised by the use of economic language and the recurring motifs of mortality and the fragility of everyday life. He died suddenly on 24th December, 2012.






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