Posts Tagged ‘doubt’


I am afraid of the darkness and the hole in it.

            —Martin Luther, “Luther”



And when Martin Luther was struck with plague

in 1527, he refused to leave the city, though he trembled,

though he burned. He felt it was the devil’s assault

sent to reduce him with despair. And reduced, he was.

There is darkness so great we lose all sense of direction,

forget even which way is in. There is darkness

so great that even the holes in the darkness are terrible,

cannot be seen as light. And in that terrible August,

the Reformer argued with God. And all that terrible August,

Luther trusted God’s promises. And he told himself,

Pray. Read. Sing. And the darkness endured.

Sometimes, Luther found, there are darknesses

so great we forget how to sing ourselves. Sometimes,

the only way through darkness, through doubt,

is to teach other people to sing.

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When Doubt Comes



Plan A: wear my best party dress

Plan B: stick out my tongue

Plan C: realize I don’t have a good plan

Plan D: notice the part of me that notices the doubt

Plan E: throw away the plans




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title and poem inspired by Jack Ridl



But if you were, you’d buy one of those thick rubber mats

and spread it out in the living room. You’d invite doubt

for a match. You’d shift in your corner from foot to foot,

crouched like a hunter, arms flexed, legs spry.

You’d stare doubt in the eye, that heel, and wait

for the ref’s bright whistle. The rules are not real rules.

Doubt doesn’t stand a chance against you—

not with your choke slam, your dropkick,

your iron claw, your pile driver. You

with your full nelson, your moonsault,

your flapjack, your guillotine drop. You’ll have doubt

on her back, begging you to stop. You smile at her

as the ref leans in, then snarl, then smile again.

You’ll let her make the first move. You’ll have the last.

Oh yeah, you’ve got this. The belt’s already yours.

God, you love this sport, this fight. Blow the whistle,

already. You’ve read the script. Hot damn. This is your night.

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Even the Buddha had a bad back,

I think as I shake out my leg.

It has fallen asleep

while I have been sitting

in the same position

for a long, long time

and stubborn, I didn’t want to move.


I notice the urge to chastise my leg

as if it were a small child

caught napping during class,

though it’s my mind

that needs a talking to.


Even the Buddha had visitations

with doubt, I think as I wrestle

with doubt myself. Though I

plan only to arm wrestle,

doubt pins me flat to the ground

and sits on me full weight

for a long, long time.


I don’t struggle.

Doubt, I say, I have nothing

to prove to you today.

And to my surprise,

it gets up and walks away.

I notice it is limping.

Perhaps a bad back.

Perhaps in its enthusiasm

to use me as a cushion

for a long, long time,

its leg has fallen asleep.


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I do not believe him
when he says he sees
the sea turtle. But there
it is, like a giant round of driftwood,
disappearing into the turquoise
waves and unkempt white froth.
And there another.
It is so hard to know
what to do when
we doubt
is proved to be true.
Now what to do
the next time I know
he is lying or exaggerating.
Already, he is swearing
he sees the gray whales
off the dark cliffs and already
I feel that flock of doubts
rise up and swarm my thoughts.
So human, I tell myself,
to question him, so human
to want to believe.
I don’t know, I tell him,
that seems unlikely.
My eyes scan the tousled sea.

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When you stand on the ledge
six stories above the street,

you are perhaps lost, but
there is not a lot a map can tell you.

There is back in the window,
and there is down.

What is it that keeps you
from jumping.

You wouldn’t even need to jump.
Just trip. Lean. Step. Or if you sneeze,

it could be considered an accident.
Somehow easier that way to imagine it,

but how to explain the fact that you
climbed through the pane

out onto the railingless edge.
Someone would have to clean up

the splatter. That thought
is enough to hold you here,

back against the brick.
It’s not that you want to die.

Below, the cars crisscross and merge.
But how to go on living.

Beneath you the ravens weave.

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