God got a dog

I browsed the YA shelves at the Culver library last week while Amy was playing on the computer one afternoon. I love reading theology and the like, but I needed a break — I needed a different kind of challenge, a different kind of heavy reading, the kind that comes through fiction, especially young adult fiction, especially the kind that doesn’t even consider making any deliberate effort to conform to any kind of Christian worldview. From the stack I brought home, so far I have read Breaking Stalin’s Nose, and Fortunately, The Milk, and Unhooking the Moon. And this weekend I read God Got a Dog.

I was introduced to Cynthia Rylant through her Henry and Mudge books, which I adore for their simplicity and sweetness — there is nothing saccharine, cutesy, or precious about them, they are just straightforward, ordinary, and evocative. They have a similarly rich understanding of child life as Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad.

Rylant’s God Got a Dog is a collection of poems that imagine God in various human situations. Her simplicity and openness shine here, too; clever and witty and creative and provocative without melodrama or heavy-handedness. There are moments that are mildly annoying — easy dismissals of some traditional doctrines that I believe remain vital — but I can also imagine enjoying a conversation with Rylant hearing the stories and thoughts behind these lines as well as those behind the parts that resonated with me.

Here is one I especially liked. The poems touch on various aspects of the human condition, including, as this one does, embodiment and gender and expectations, but not in a strident or aggressively political way. Each poem is illustrated by Marla Frazee, and her images are beautifully gentle and full of just the right kind of energy, inviting and engaging.

God took a bath

With Her clothes on.
Her robe, to be specific.
Why did She do this?
She was shy,
that’s why.
A little self-conscious
about Her body.
God wasn’t always
this way.
She used to be free as a bird,
running stark naked
everywhere.
She never thought
about bodies at all.
Then these things started coming back to Her:
The whole misunderstanding
with Adam and Eve.
Then circumcision.
Then talk talk talk
of everybody being made
in Her image.
Until She got afraid
to look in a mirror.
Everybody had such
high expectations
and now She was
a little insecure.
Could be She was flabby.
Love handles on God
would have to be HUGE.

So She kept Her robe on.

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2 thoughts on “God got a dog

  1. I like the poem. Thanks for sharing. Funny–I too am a big nonfiction reader and tend to only turn to fiction when I’ve worn myself out 🙂 Though I am reading The Invention of Wings right now, and not because I’m worn out but because I’ve been on the wait list at the library for it forever and finally got it, and so I’m reading it even though I don’t have time! I’m really loving it, though…though I suppose it only sort of counts as fiction since it’s based on historical characters 🙂

  2. I used to read only fiction. It is still maybe my favorite. But I rarely read except at bedtime these days… and I feel driven to read a lot of theology and spiritual stuff. Thirsty and all. I will have to look for the one you’re reading! Fiction is fiction whether there’s history involved or not, as far as I’m concerned.

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