The Problem of a God Both Merciful and Omnipotent

Whole families passed through
that red house so quickly 

later, my father moved us
to a more stable street. 

But then, for three months,
I had a friend named Nancy. 

I'd go down after supper
to play until dark. 

The table was the only clear space
in their house, the only hard place 

her sister Lynn could lie.
Plates cleared, the family  

set Lynn on the table.
They stood at their places  

to stretch her arms and legs.
The first time I saw this,  

I thought it was punishment:
Lynn resisted. She seemed to writhe in pain. 

No one had yet explained to me
“dystrophy” or “therapy.” 

No one said, “will you help?”
or commanded: “wait on the porch.” 

I wondered how much it hurt;
was Lynn like the starfish? 

I'd learned from a library book
they could grow back damaged limbs. 

Growth can make you stronger.
Pain equals only itself,  

leaving a splinter
embedded in the calm of the mind. 

When Nancy, who could make me cry
by taking her dolls home, 

came to say goodbye,
I hid in the back closet. 

I burrowed down deep
into my nest of old clothes, 

said “go away” through the door
and pretended I couldn't hear. 

Then I thought of how the family
used to sing over Lynn. 

That was what I'd miss:
their ragged singing, those sweet hymns.





Leda's Song
by Gary Simmons