This Is A Damned Strange World

John Berryman
John Berryman

Eleven Addresses To The Lord

by John Berryman


Holy, as I suppose I dare to call you
without pretending to know anything about you
but infinite capacity everywhere & always
& in particular certain goodness to me.

Yours is the crumpling, to my sister-in-law terrifying thunder,
yours the candelabra buds sticky in Spring,
Christ’s mercy,
the gloomy wisdom of godless Freud:

yours the lost souls in ill-attended wards,
those agonized thro’ the world
It this instant of time, all evil men,
Belsen, Omaha Beach,—

incomprehensible to man your ways.
May be the Devil after all exists.
‘I don’t try to reconcile anything’ said the poet at eighty,
‘This is a damned strange world.’

Man is ruining the pleasant earth & man.
What at last, my Lord, will you allow?
Postpone till after my children’s deaths your doom
if it be thy ineffable, inevitable will.

I say ‘Thy kingdom come’, it means nothing to me.
Hast Thou prepared astonishments for man?
One sudden Coming? Many so believe.
So not, without knowing anything, do I.

I wonder what Berryman would make of the current state of affairs in the world? The problem with our current dilemma we find ourselves in our post modern dystopian populist enviro-mess fake news 24/7 news-cycle of a world, is that for those individuals with a penchant for self indulgent worry, there is almost no place to start and no end to the problems to worry about. I talked to a friend yesterday who was sending his 2 fourteen year old daughters off to a camp for four weeks where no technology is allowed, a cell phone, video game, Instagram detox.  Sign me up.

I have been wrestling with the end of my own addresses to the universe.  It is slowly, slowly congealing into something that is looking close to final, but the challenge with writing poetry about things that are unknowable, there is always something more to say on the subject.

Berryman’s brilliant Eleven Addresses to The Lord feel to me less like a confession or proclamation and more like an introduction, hopeful that despite all of Berryman’s excesses in life, there might still be an invitation to have a drink at the bar with God on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis.

Eleven Addresses To The Lord


If I say Thy name, art Thou there? It may be so.
Thou art not absent-minded, as I am.
I am so much so I had to give up driving.
You attend, I feel, to the matters of man.

Across the ages certain blessings swarm,
horrors accumulate, the best men fail:
Socrates, Lincoln, Christ mysterious.
Who can search Thee out?

except Isaiah & Pascal, who saw.
I dare not ask that vision, though a piece of it
at last in crisis was vouchsafèd me.
I altered then for good, to become yours.

Caretaker! take care, for we run in straits.
Daily, by night, we walk naked to storm,
some threat of wholesale loss, to ruinous fear.
Gift us with long cloaks & adrenalin.

Who haunt the avenues of Angkor Wat
recalling all that prayer, that glory dispersed,
haunt me at the corner of Fifth & Hennepin.
Shield & fresh fountain! Manifester! Even mine.

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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