Days of Heaven

By Carl Dennis b. 1939 Carl Dennis
That was a great compliment the Greeks paid to human life   
When they imagined their gods living as humans do,   
With the same pleasure in love and feasting,   
Headstrong as we are, turbulent, quick to anger,   
Slow to forgive. Just like us, only immortal.   
And now that those gods have proven mortal too   
And heaven and earth can’t be divided,
Every death means a divine occasion
Has been taken from us, a divine perspective,   
Though the loss gets only a line or two in the news.   
Hard to believe the headlines this morning   
That a banker on Mt. Olympus has been pilfering,   
That a builder has been guilty of shoddy construction   
On a bridge that spans a river in heaven,   
Cutting corners to squirrel away his fortune
For a better day, when the great day has already come.   
For news that heartens we must turn to the classifieds.   
Here in what’s left of heaven it’s right to advertise   
For a soul mate. It’s right to look for a job   
That lets us incarnate spirit more fully
And leave something behind that time is kinder to   
Than the flesh of gods. Lucky there’s work.   
Lucky the streets of heaven are in need of repair.   
Paint is peeling from the dream-house trim.   
Holy rainwater backs up in leaf-clogged gutters   
Till the ceiling sags and tiles need regrouting.   
And look at the list of practical items for sale—
Used snowblowers, croquet sets, chainlink fencing.   
And what about a wooden canoe with two paddles.   
Why don’t we make time for a turn before sundown?   
Out on the broad lake a breeze will find us   
That’s wafted around the planet to cool our divinity.
The clouds will hover above us in a giant halo   
As we watch our brother, the sun, descend,
His gentle face turned toward us, his godly expression   
Undarkened by accusation or disappointment   
Or the thought of something he’s left undone.

Carl Dennis, “Days of Heaven” from Ranking the Wishes. Copyright © 1997 by Carl Dennis. Reprinted with the permission of Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. For online information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see www.penguin.com.

Source: New and Selected Poems, 1974-2004 (Penguin Books, 2004)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Carl Dennis b. 1939

Subjects Religion

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carl  Dennis

Biography

Carl Dennis was born in 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned a BA from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from the University of California-Berkeley. He has taught at the State University of New York-Buffalo since 1966, where he is both a professor of English and writer in residence. Dennis has published numerous books of poetry, including House of My Own (1974), The Outskirts of Troy (1988), Meetings with Time (1992), . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.