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Theodicy

                                    Joshua Robbins


Cold sweeps east across the asphalt predestined
for the warehouses of the snow, the darkening
suburbs. I think of Job, and wonder
if God ever really got back to business.

After He’d consented to boils and crushed
livestock, servants’ and children’s throats
slit, after ash, maybe one still afternoon
God raised both hands above His head

as if to say, “I’ve had enough,” and renounced
all of it, took a job behind a desk
wearing khaki-colored scrubs, filing papers
to code and answering the phones, His voice

far away, disinterested, yet familiar to those
desperate on the other end of the line.
If it were you fidgeting in the waiting room
you’d not even notice Him.

Just north past the ridgeline’s barren pin oaks
I watch in the rearview as the cold silhouette
of our doctor’s office park dissolves
into the outskirts of suburban sprawl.

Quick as a signal change: eighteen cautious
months of “trying” become eighteen months
of failure. It’s sunset, and off to our left
a tracery of orange ignites turnpike

tract house flashing, precisely, as if
something ecstatic had found us, but
I know better. Beside me, my wife’s
stopped sobbing, nestles into herself

against the frosted window’s glass.
Spine curved to pull knees tight
to her chest, neck in a prayerless bow,
her body becomes the wrenched shape

of all we’ve wanted, and more and more
I fear the stupid hope in me that says,
“You can live with the unacceptable.” I want
to comfort her, to say anything, to get

Biblical, that is to say how the Lord
sent a pillar of fire at night
to guide His children home, how
He plucked a rib whole

from the darkness of the body, so,
you know, we’ve got it good, considering.
A bogus theodicy to be sure, but what else
is there? If God is with us, then maybe

He lives around here, too, some duplex on a loop
or a single apartment with a satellite dish.
Maybe right now God is, like us,
commuting across town toward home,

or headed from work to the store, or maybe
to nowhere in particular. He’s just
driving, His window cracked to feel
the cold wind as the sun descends,

while the rest of us pull in to our driveways,
jangle our keys at the front door, and try
to keep on believing, even as we
lock it behind us and turn out the light.


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