Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: To The Infinitesimal

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

What does a tiny winged insect at the periphery of human awareness have to do with holiness? This questions lies behind today’s poem by Betsy Sholl, Maine’s former poet laureate.

To The Infinitesimal by Betsy Sholl

I opened a holy book, hoping to find
the part about turning the other cheek,
and out you flew, hovering dot
smaller than a comma, winged inkling.
Were you late when names were given out,
an afterthought, spittle from a cough
at the end of creation? Feeling you
graze my check, I lunged like a clumsy golem,
but you gave me the slip.
How can anything so small have a will,
a want, the wits to flee two clapped hands?
In a time revving for war, with experts
stoking the engines, insisting necessity,
you’re a nil, a naught, a nuisance to ignore,
not one of mystery’s vexing ellipses…
If your wings whir, if you buzz at all,
it's below our hearing, little serif
broken off some word in holy writ
to drift among us, inaudible
argument illustrating creation’s
fondness for every last tittle and jot.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetryis produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2009 by Betsy Sholl. Reprinted from Rough Cradle, Alice James Books, 2009, by permission of Alice James Books, Farmington, ME. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.