My Lifelong Relationship with God

Featured art: blurred photo of a church in a remote area

By Julie Hanson 

We have not spoken for nearly thirty years.
It’s difficult to remember the precise moment when something stops.
I tried to quit smoking so many times, for example,
that I don’t know the date of my success.
I still like the same sensations I did as a girl in the 1950s.
Sun on my shoulder, a breeze on the nape of my neck.
Pulling the cotton laces of canvas shoes tight to tie them.
Losing myself in the thicket of a book.
The way my torso and limbs and neck feel after swimming.
Stirring with a wooden spoon. Hearing the wooden spoon
against the side of the bowl. Yards that invite a body
to run down the hill. Things that fit together.

Some did not want it to unfold as it did, but I came to be nonetheless.
We needn’t grow quiet now.
We all have had plans that are cancelled and plans that are not.
We all know that what disappoints isn’t always due to us.
If replacing God with another phrase would work, I would do it.
It would not be love, however. It would not be God is Love.
God is Love is like trying to climb up a string instead of a ladder.
When I count my blessings, and they are many,
I consider them as much or as little my fault as anyone else’s.
That it rains today, that I wrote something down,
that I was born in June when we have peas and lettuce
in the garden. If we have planted them. If we know how to do that.
If the yard has a garden. If a yard with a garden appealed
to our younger selves. If the groundhog has not found a way in.
If the owl in the oak does its work.


Julie Hanson is the author of The Audible and the Evident (Ohio University Press, February 2020), winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, and Unbeknownst (University of Iowa Press, 2011), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize and finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She received fellowships from the NEA and Vermont Studio Center and has poems recently or forthcoming in Under a Warm Green Linden, failbetter, Plume, Bat City Review, The Literary Review, and Copper Nickel.

Originally published in NOR 22.

“My Lifelong Relationship with God” has since been collected in The Audible and the Evident by Julie Hanson, @2020. Reprinted by permission of Ohio University Press.

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