Mudlark No. 64 (2018)

Atomic Theory 432
Poems by Shann Ray

poems to my wife and God

Cover of Mudlark No. 64 (2018)

Artist, Makoto Fujimura, Walking on Water - Azurite
Mineral pigments on polished gesso, 7ft x 11ft, 2012

Head Note: Thank you to Makoto Fujimura for the painting that serves as the frontispiece for these poems. A good friend and fellow artist concerned with the intricacies of how the world is too often characterized by violence, Mako consistently pursues intercultural dialogue through beauty as a language of peace. Walking on Water is expansive, a seven foot by eleven foot work of remarkable elegance and strength dedicated to survivors of natural and nuclear disaster.

Having visited genocide sites in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, I have been influenced by people like Mako to change my view of the Divine. Rilke posits a God who is beautiful, and intimate, but who is also a God of abandonment. Kenyans, Czechs, Germans, South Africans, Northern Cheyennes, Nez Perce, Blackfeet, Canadians, Americans, Japanese, Chinese and Filipinos—exquisite men and women I've had the honor to know and be known by—have taken me to some of the most ultimate places of human brokenness, compassion, and existence. In that nexus where ultimate violence is committed and somehow also reconciled, I’m struck by the presence of our collective loneliness alongside the gravity of our collective love. At the same time, my wife has drawn me into a more contemplative life, and in our shared sense of silence, of listening and action, we began having conversations about space and time, touch, and intentional regard for the dignity of the beloved. In contemplating the Anima Christi (notably the Latin term for the soul of Christ takes the feminine form) we studied genocide and person to person violence differently, through a lens of atomic theory not at odds with fracture, but understanding fracture or fission in the context of fusion. Fusion generates light, and life force, and in a certain sense I think fusion also embodies love. The poems in Atomic Theory 432 accuse us of abandoning one another and abandoning God. In the end, I hope they also help reconcile us with the unforeseen reality of grace.  SR

Shann Ray’s work has appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Northwest Review, Esquire, Narrative, Poetry International, McSweeney’s, and Salon. Honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, the American Book Award, and the High Plains Book Award for poetry. He is the author of American Masculine (Graywolf), Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity (Rowman & Littlefield), and Balefire (Lost Horse). His website:

Copyright © Mudlark 2018
Mudlark Home Page