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The Age of Reason, by Kathleen Norris

from “Little Girls in Church”:

“When I was four, I could draw as well as Raphael. It has taken me my whole life to learn to draw like a four-year-old child.” – Pablo Picasso


Late one summer evening
we thought you lost
in the ravine
behind the house. You told me once
God cut it in the earth, angry
because people would not love him.

You had built a cocoon of branches
and were curled
inside it, sound asleep.
We broke it open, unfolded you,
and carried you to the house.

After first communion,
I held the veil you handed me
and felt suddenly ashamed
that we’d broken in like that,
the branches too thick,
the entrance too low and narrow
for us to crawl through. And now
you’d see us
for the fools we were,
celebrating nothing
in the disastrous place we’d brought you to.


Now it begins: the search for a God
who has moved on, the
God-please-help-me need
you still can’t image; strangely
twisted landscapes
in which you may not rest.
The pillar of cloud
you saw march across the plain
will pass you by; some younger child
will see it.

It was given
so easily, and now you must learn
to ask for it back.
It’s not so terrible;
it’s like the piano lessons you love
and hate. You know how you want
the music to sound
but have to practice, half in tears,
without much hope.


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