Creed for Atheists

By: Matthew Buckley Smith

Featured art: Bright Nothing by Sam Francis

     Let us not speak of God
As if He were the nightmare of a naughty child,
     Or a white lie for a widow,
Or a conscript’s consolation on the battlefield.
     Let us instead be awed
By the nothingness we’ve chosen not to be awed by,
     The shade whose earthly shadow
We’re standing in, the lie cast by a happy lie.
     The face we turn away,
Let us turn it toward the others, let us find them out,
     The ones who know the way
A sure thing looks when rounded with a little doubt,
     The same ones every day
Who, kneeling all together in a common room,
     Pray for their pets and pray
As well for us, their company in a common doom.
     Let’s take no satisfaction,
But concentrate on what we say when we say no:
     That dead we are the same,
That time falls fast across the fading light like snow,
     That man is an anxious motion
Of matter upon matter, liquor upon tongue,
     The neurotransmitter’s flame
Upon the dendrite’s kindling—bright, and not for long.


Matthew Buckley Smith’s first book, Dirge for an Imaginary World, won the 2011 Able Muse Book Award. His second, Midlife, book won the 2021 Richard Wilbur Award and will be published next winter by the University of Evansville Press.

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