First, a definition of terms—a million New Yorkers
concrete enough, though how this number was arrived at
perhaps questionable, based on a survey,
how many boxes checked “no religion”—15%
nationwide, extrapolating to the city’s population,
assuming New Yorkers are representative
of the nation, and who would claim that? Still,
a statistic is a strap New Yorkers can hang on
as they read this ad in the subways on their way
to or from work or shopping or parties or scenes
of a crime they have committed or will commit.
And “good”—always a slippery term, here doubly so—
all right, fine, cool, okey-dokey, copacetic—
as if the question had been decided once and for all,
more permanent than marriage vows or careers,
unchanging as social security numbers, but really
more like DNA, subject to discombolulation
by radiation, disease, unease or wearing down,
but also meaning good behavior without the father-figure
snapping the afterlife like a belt against his palm.
Are good? What kind of survey could determine this?
I’d opt for may be good or even could be.
And then that question—meant to be rhetorical?
Could this ad be recruiting? Atheists want you,
invisible finger pointing like Uncle Sam’s
in the World War II poster. And what about
foxholes, poor habitat for atheists? Or
is that true? Come out of your foxholes,
atheists, there are more of us than you know.
The subway’s a hell of place for such a weighty subject,
when we’re all distracted and bound somewhere else,
careening on a single fare along so many
branches of doubt and faith and language itself.
MARY MAKOFSKE’S latest books are World Enough, and Time (Kelsay, 2017) and Traction (Ashland Poetry, 2011), winner of the Richard Snyder Prize. Her poems have appeared recently in The American Journal of Poetry, Spillway, Crosswinds, Southern Poetry Review, Talking River Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review, and in nineteen anthologies. www.marymakofske.com