God likes hair salons

It is hard to believe God lives outside the house of earth,
beyond the lawn of stars, and the fenced-yard universe,
out in the timeless cold, his raw breath, his radon brow,
ridged, veiling nebular eyes, and his fingers,
freezing as he writes down names in a book for later.

Of course God prefers the flavour of pubs
the company of welders and waitresses,
the warm feel of a beech-wood pool cue,
the chatter on wharves and in hair salons,
the dynamo of an adoring daycare,
the oily smell of a machine shop,
with pin-ups on the wall above the workbench.

And she enjoys the evenings, by this footpath,
reclining on a red dogwood leaf and watching
the orbital business of planets and moons,
checking their patterns against all the atoms
that hum in the humus down in the hollows.


But in the daylight God disappears,
running here and there,
contending with the desires of people,
shaking with laughter,
then weeping.

Which recalls to him his singular concern:
to keep dancing his crazy cosmic conga
and coax all the broken circles back to love.

So that as we walk this leaf-covered trail,
we would have no fear of ridicule, no fear
of reaching within and raising our hands
against the injustice of hunger,
the machinations of tyrants and puppets,
the hallucinations of the religious right,
the delusions of dead liberals,
the corporate gang-rape of the earth—
owning any hypocrisy of our own complicity—
no fear of a rising tide of truth,
and the truth of ourselves, obscured
beneath the pallor of our own resentments—
no fear of affection or forgiveness from foes,
unmoved by memes and all the passing
centres of fascination, indifferent
to obscurity, settled in silence,
at peace in solitude—  
for we must know, at kidney depth,
that we are divinely liked.


  1. If I may venture a theological response – a beautiful blend of transcendence and immanence, with a strong emphasis on the latter.

  2. Lovely. Hope to see you soon Steve. There’s a rustic Connecticut neighbourhood that welcomes you and your family whenever 🙂

  3. Hi Stephen. This is lovely but feels like two different poems. Perhaps that was your intent, but I prefer the first ending at “back to love” 🙂 It echoes something Eugene Peterson said this weekend at our Soul Care retreat about dancing with the trinity.

    However, I found myself somehow bristling at what I heard as a preachy tone in the second part. I love your work, so I hope you know my words here are meant as vulnerability and not as criticism. I must think about why I bristled.

  4. In Chinese medicine the “kidneys” (I use quotations as it encompasses more than just the kidney organs as they are understood now in Western medicine) are said to store our most basic and divine essence, our pre-natal and post-natal qi as well as the fuel that is needed as a catalyst to assist all transformations and reactions in the body. Having just learned this I loved your ending!

    Also I think you make a very important allusion to the idea that so many of our “broken circles” in this life could be healed if we could firmly grasp that divine essence and feel fully embraced, intimately accepted. I think there would be much less cause for violation of others boundaries if we already felt content within our own and open to that which is freely given.

  5. Interesting comment, Teryl. In biblical Hebrew the “reins” (Old English for kidneys) are seen as approximately equivalent to the heart.

    And I loved your second paragraph.

  6. Of course, as a poet, I think you’ll agree that any reaction is preferable to a non-reaction. So thank you Joyce, and thank you for speaking honestly. Certainly there’s two strains to this. When I first put it down, it had none of the “sermon” in it and simply ended with the notion of walking this life with the understanding of being divinely liked, which I very much like, because “like” somehow seems to pull me closer to a transcendent God, than love. And thinking about the freedom that this “being liked” from beyond this plane would spring open I couldn’t help but go on an activist rant, without fear of chastisement. Except with that, I think you’ll note, I took a mirror along, without which, would simply be haranguing. Thanks again Joyce.

  7. Thank you Teryl. Before I wrote this I did some reading about the “kidneys,” how in ancient understanding (as Sam points out, there are references to this in the Old Testament) they were thought to be the seat of reflection, temperament, conscience.

    I too loved your end thought!

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