God is in the Cracks

“I like the wide sweep of it. There are many mysteries between father and son that people don’t talk about… There’s much leaping, but each line, so to speak, steps on something solid.”

— Robert Bly on Rosicrucian in the Basement


“Just a tiny crack separates this world
from the next, and you step over it
every day,
God is in the cracks.”
Foot propped up, nurse hovering, phone ringing.
“Relax and breathe from your heels.
Now, that’s breathing.
So, tell me, have you enrolled yet?”


“In the Illinois College of Podiatry.”

“Dad, I have a job. I teach.”

“Ha! Well, I’m a man of the lower extremities.”

“Dad, I’m forty-three.”

“So what? I’m eighty. I knew you
before you began wearing shoes.
Too good for feet?” he asks.
“I. Me. Mind:
That’s all I get from your poetry.
Your words lack feet. Forget the mind.
Mind is all over the place. There’s no support.
You want me to be proud of you? Be a foot man.
Here, son,” he says, handing me back my shoes,
“try walking in these.
Arch supports. Now there’s a subject.
Some day you’ll write about arch supports.”

…Sward’s Talmud-conversant father, of Russian-Jewish extraction — a Chicago-based podiatrist by profession — came unhinged after losing his wife and became (in the 1950s) a Rosicrucian who practised his rites secretly in the basement. Under the eye of his bemused “dreamer” son, he evolved his own blend of kabbalistic, Christian hermetic and prescient New Age mysticism, which lent its colours to his medical practice as well as to his view of that son’s eventual career choice and several marriages.

Other remembered voices weave in and out of this remarkable sequence (grandfather, mother, step-mother, aunt, even a dog), but it is the father’s that dominates. A fully believable new American, steeped in old-world Yiddish culture even as he accedes to the professional class, he’s also a complex archetypal figure, or more than one: Jewish father, holy madman, Shakespearean fool — a sort of Touchstone meets Tevye the Dairyman. “Just a tiny crack separates this world/ from the next, and you step over it/ every day,/ God is in the cracks,” he tells his son, as he fits him for arch supports. “You have two fathers,/ one you can see,/ one who looks like me;/ and one you can’t,/ the father you’ll never see,” he tells him from his hospital bed in After the Bypass . “There is no place empty of God,” he says, and “Darkness is a candle, too./ So open the window in your chest./ Let the invisible fly in and out.” The cumulative effect of these crackpot mini-sermons, shot through with visionary insight, is more than humorous: It is to waken unexpected emotions and nudge the seeker in us all.

–Robyn Sarah, The Globe & Mail
Her most recent poetry collection is A Day’s Grace.


Black Moss Press $17.00
ISBN: 0-88753-422-8

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