Benevolence ↯ Omnipotence

For eleven minutes, there was no God

and I was real,
the sloughed off words and
dissonance in the flesh
bearing heavily on every moment
that would come next
because we don’t time-travel
through paragraphs
of a preordained script.
Such a thing would have been
a grace, and there is none.

Pain is pain.
Blood is red and liquid
and honestly quite hard
to remove from the sheets,
and when someone sweet-talks you
into opening the door
you find, somewhere
along the extraction,
it’s not some thematic allegory
but something that bleeds
actual blood and registers
decibels of fear

and the purple of the bruises
is not an abstract
“vocabulary of perception.”
They’re fucking purple bruises.
Shame is shame,
no matter how many times
and how deeply you swallow.

Why have you forsaken me?

For a quarter of a nondescript afternoon,
the divine plan was a hoax;
there was no transcendental reason.
Prayers are patches
on a chain-link fence
and faith is a weathered blanket
against the titanium bullets
of the will of a man who
had made up his mind.
You live through his decision
in slow motion,
minute after godless minute,
a measured life in free fall

empty of angels.
The entire ungoverned universe
suddenly matters so little
and so much,
because this is not a coherence
some Great Architect of lives
is telling,

because there’s no one
in this cold void but you.

(A note on the title: the “lightning” symbol is commonly used in mathematics
to indicate a contradiction or a logical impossibility.)

Iris Orpi

Questions for Iris

On "Driving through Louisville"

What is the significance of the piece to you?

I was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to the US at age 30. Road trips in my new home country, especially outside of my home state of Illinois, are always significant to me because I get to be exposed to different things (snow, for instance) and the different ways that people live. My trip from Chicago to Louisville is one of those special times and I knew I had to write about it and document my experiences no matter how mundane they may be to others. 

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I wanted the descriptions of common things to be their own novelty without needing to present them as the traditional poem, so I wrote them in continuous lines like regular paragraphs. 

What was the process for creating this work?

The first few passages were actually text messages to a friend of mine who's based in the Philippines. I was trying to stay awake by texting and he was keeping me company 9,000 miles away while it was broad daylight where he was. Afterward I liked the way the passages went, and kept documenting my trip that way. Afterward I compiled the passages as a whole piece.

On "Benevolence ↯ Omnipotence"

What is the significance of the piece to you?

I have written quite a few poems about my experiences with sexual assault and its aftermath. This is one of those poems. I feel that this is an important conversation society needs to have and every additional voice and perspective is contributing to the conversation. For instance, my approaching the topic in this particular piece as the absence of God was my injured response to people in my church congregation who started treating me differently after they learned about my assault, as if what was done to me was my fault. I became paranoid for a while, wondering if they thought I had been a "bad" Christian that's why God let it happen to me? That isn't my truth. I don't know why, if God exists, he allows bad things to happen. So I thought I would narrate the experience like there was a fluke in what we were taught about God being both benevolent and omnipotent.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I wrote the poem in what people would consider the "traditional" way. Possibly the one "cross-genre" or "hybrid" about the piece is my usage of a mathematical symbol on the title. I am a mathematician by education and profession, and have learned to see the elegance in the clinical, black-and-white nature of logical proofs that theoretical mathematicians write. I wanted to pull some of that coldness and precision given that the body of the poem is already full of emotion.

What was the process for creating this work?
I revisited, in my mind, the trauma of my sexual assault; tried my best to tap into the imagery of our traditional conditioning/understanding of what God is like; and wrote the opposite of that imagery as I narrated the assault. Afterward I decided on the title given the reason I wrote above. 

Iris Orpi is a Filipina writer currently living in Chicago, IL.

Next (Instructions for Making Caramel) >

< Back (Driving through Louisville)