Half Glow

Half Glow[1] was originally published in a poetry collection titled Pretty Poems for Ugly People (Random House, 1985). It is republished here with the kind permission of the Audra Seeley Stern estate.

What God will do next is not for man to know.

His marvels and His might know no bounds.

Look to the sun, and you’ll see but half His glow.

 

For all His beauty, He has His faults though.[2]

Conjuring crises from heaven, down.

What God will do next is not for man to know.

 

When in a sour mood, He makes volcanoes blow.

He could turn the Tetons to muddy mounds.

Look to the sun, and you’ll see but half His glow.

 

Should He care to, God could stop the Nile’s flow,

or, should He dare to, vaporize your little town.

What God will do next is not for man to know.

 

He could, with great ease, level Toyko

spiting Buddhists who spurn His crown.

Look to the sun, and you’ll see but half His glow.

 

He made our brain but asked us not to go

question His ways or His renown.

What God will do next is not for man to know.

Look to the sun, and you’ll see but half His glow.

 

–Audra Seeley Stern, 1964-2011[3]

[1] Half Glow is a villanelle using the traditional rhyme and refrain scheme: A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2. Villanelles were originally pastoral in nature and did not adhere to this rigid form.

[2] Stern Scholars often note how she opens the piece using an almost evangelical tone, a tone that they argue is obliterated by the subsequent stanzas. Biographer Edith Bunting parallels the abrupt transition in Half Glow to Stern’s abrupt denunciation of God after the miscarriage of her second child (this poem is said to have been quickly composed while Stern was still in hospital).

[3] Audra Seeley Stern died of pancreatic cancer on September 10, 2001. Despite all her suffering, she was said to have “rekindled her devotion to God.” Mere hours after her expiration, two planes were flown in to the towers of the World Trade Center.

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