Theology 101 by Richard Schiffman

Theology 101

Somewhere inside you a doe hides
in a canyon black as night,
in a backwood nobody knows.
You can spend a lifetime waiting
for the doe. It won’t show.
That is how you know it is there,
by its failure to appear–
the conspicuous absence of doe.
It’s the ache that never leaves you.
Unlike the doe which would scoot off
in a heartbeat or even sooner.
Because a doe is shiftier than air.
More likely it never emerges.
That way you’ll never loose it.
Never loose its absence, is what I mean,
which is better than its presence,
more dependable and enduring.
The doe you need is not the doe
you know, but the doe you don’t,
and therefore cannot shoot,
being elusive. Not that you could shoot
a doe that wasn’t there, even if it was
(if you get my drift).
But the point is, you might think
that you had shot it, even if you hadn’t.
You would become some kind of religious
fanatic, is what I’m saying,
and end up displaying the doe’s rack
above your living room mantle,
even though doe don’t have racks,
and, moreover, there isn’t a mantel
in the world that is big enough
to display one, even if they did
(which they don’t) if you get my drift.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about the devil.

by Richard Schiffman, first published in Boxcar Poetry Review.

Editor’s Note: Saying one thing while describing another is a great poetic device. This poem uses the bait-and-switch approach to great effect. Are we reading about a doe, or theology?

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