All deities, Blake reminds us, reside in the human breast.*
It must be so. And the use of the plural is noted—
it does not go unremarked—
for Blake chose his words with care
and it behooves us in turn to take them in with care.
In his world, and ours,
deities are populous,
very human agents—they are entangled
in an unseemly,
Across the span of history
theirs has too often appeared to be a hardscrabble contest
for our fealty, which is not quite the same thing as “fidelity”
or “loyalty” or “devotion”.
Or meagre adherence to dogma.
Fealty. Is that the word?
Yes, that’s it, fealty.
The skirmishes of the deities who inhabit the
overcrowded confines of the human breast are sensible,
by which one means to say that they can be sensed.
One feels them, corporeally.
One reads their tumult on one’s pulses: the push me/pull you of
the cardinal’s entreaties,
the lay preacher’s interdictions,
the deacon’s solicitations,
the ascetic’s supplications,
the rabbi’s admonitions,
the pinched parishioner’s wagging finger.
One perceives the detonations of ordnance
within the fragile bounds of the ribcage.
But these are the wrong detonations.
This is the wrong tumult.
And, so, it must be said
(and one ought not shrink from saying it):
Is it not a great and joyful mystery that
in our shapeless world with all its artifice,
an earthbound deity—no mere apparition
but an embodiment who wears glasses,
savours anchovies and sometimes forgets to close the fridge door—
should be living with me now in Green Dolphin Street?
Is it not a great and joyful mystery that this embodiment
should—through the workings of a slow
but inexorable magic, the magic of human love,
and through the example of a life thoughtfully and decently lived—
be able to disarm all the deities’
colonizing generals and foot soldiers, one by one,
lay a peaceable claim to all the interior territories and
flood this heart’s chambers with all that is humanly and transcendently good,
without recourse, ever, to dogma, persuasion, mongering or force?
P.W. Bridgman writes from Vancouver, Canada. His poems and short fiction and have appeared or are forthcoming in journals and anthologies published in Canada, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Austria, Russia, South Africa and the USA. His selection of short fiction, entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age (Libros Libertad), was released in 2013; a book of poems entitled A Lamb will be published later this year by Ekstasis Editions. You can learn more about P.W. Bridgman by visiting his website at <www.pwbridgman.ca>.
* See “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne and The Complete Poetry of William Blake (New York: The Modern Library, 1941) at p. 655.