I know you didn’t mean it to me directly,
but in one poem (exceptionally read), you stuck a huge stick of dynamite up in me and
blasted everything I believe in,
and I don’t know how I feel about that.
Although I applaud, from a place as deep as my doubt, after everything you do,
I sat there silent, and then left the room.
I didn’t have anything to say.
I hate feeling stupid.
I felt like a fourth grader when the cool kid walks up to him
and says, “You’re stupid,”
and then punches him in the face.
That puny little guy goes away and pretends it doesn’t hurt until the swelling goes down.
I wanted to say, “Hey, I hated it like you.
I doubted it. I kicked against the wall of human suffering.
I wandered into churches at night and shook my fist at the stained glass above me.”
But it got stuck in my throat.
I have fought this fight before with
Sylvia Plath and Charles Bukowski,
and a hundred other poets—like you—whom I love,
but who—like you—would hate what I am if they knew me.
I don’t feel the hatred you say engulfs my beliefs. I wanted to, but
I hear your words ricocheting down the halls of my mind,
and I can see down that hall because of the sparks made by your mastery of sound.
And I love what that has done for me as an artist.
Some would say, “I feel pity for somebody that doesn’t believe in God,”
but that’s just arrogant,
and I don’t feel particularly proud of myself right now nor condescending.
I definitely don’t want to be the sole representative of a two thousand year old religion.
I don’t feel wounded
because I know you weren’t angry with me;
I’m not sure you were angry at all.
I feel a little novocained right now, and I have to come to.
Maybe I love you
because you shook the tree I sit in
and if a tree is strong enough to sit in,
it’s strong enough to shake.
I guess I did take it personally
because I have read the book cover to cover
and took it in, like a lover memorizes a face,
and I actually thought it out instead of just accepting it
in a ribboned box at Christmas.
I guess it bothers me that sooner
or later we reach this fork in the road—this diversity fork—
and we can look at each other and be tolerant just so long before separating into different paths.
I see you getting smaller in the distance.
I guess I wonder if two people
build on different foundations, that are,
to the other one, invisible,
can they ever really see the other person’s building at all?
I guess I wonder
if you knew what I actually believed,
and that I bought into what you see as lies,
if you would still respect me.
And I hate that.
Because I really shouldn’t care.