“What Is Faith, After All?” by Carol V. Davis

Carol V. Davis


At ten, newly returned from living in England,
I sat in a rabbi’s study reading about a vicar’s daughter.
When he asked about the novel in my lap, I stammered,
mortified at being caught reading about another religion.
As if faith were so fragile I’d make the switch just like that.
A traitor revealed.

Thirty years later, leaving Russia, my elderly friend
made the sign of the cross over me, as I backed down
the dark staircase, tearful we’d never see each other again.
My religion irrelevant; her protection what mattered.
But didn’t my grandfather trek across Russia’s broad back

to flee Cossack sabers blessed by this sign and Orthodox priests
sprinkling holy water on soldiers itching for pogroms?

That same trip, a friend in Novgorod gave me an icon
for safe travels back to America. I tucked it in my suitcase,
unsure if it would protect or doom me.

This act of betrayal could pull down the belly of the plane.

Now on the computer a writer talks about his new-found faith.
My husband walks in; my cheeks burn with betrayal, the red
snaking down my neck, my body, as if by listening I am signing
on and that man in sandals and dusty robes will enter and snatch me forever.

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

[download audio]


Carol V. Davis: “I have been exploring faith and doubt and also superstition in my poetry. Judaism is complicated as it’s also a culture, a history, an identity. I have gone in and out of religious observance, but never lost my Jewish identity. The past some years I have returned to belief and, as a result, observance. All I can say is that it has taken on a central core to my being and has to do with a dialog with something greater than people, with G-d, if you will.”

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