God as Inarticulation – by Susan Odell Underwood

Painting: “Reveal the Light”
Artist: Henry L. Jones
2019 – 16×20 inches – mixed media on canvas


Featured Composer’s Notes: This poem would work well with many different ekphrastic interpretations, but I chose to focus on the central part of the poem which depicts restless movement and majestic scenery on this cold windy November night.  The main theme reflects upthrust air, swaying, and the “breath of multitudes” that leaves the author speechless.

Original Musical Composition created by Jeff Byers in response to “God as Inarticulation.” All rights reserved.


God as Inarticulation

Just think of the miracle
that makes my throat want
to make a place, a groundling mewl
or cluck-purled whisper, to tell you
about this night:
Trees—just silhouetted bare November branches.
Cedars shiver their conical hats in the covetous dark,
oaks and sycamores sprawl synonymously,
protecting the fold of maples
and all the thicketed brambling.
Unnamed
heads toss in the wind, sway
like a herd of wild, mired ponies.
This solitude of upthrust twiggy air,
the breath of multitudes
above their trunks and boles and boughs.

Congregational underbrush rummages the night.
My tongue tries to lift the ceiling of my mouth,
urged by that same urge that lifts
the tongues of back-lit limbs,
visible only because the distance glows
itself up into the rosy cold sky of cloud,
illuminated by a town where once—
for a longer time than we can fathom
or ever begin to be—there was
no town at all.


Susan O’Dell Underwood directs the creative writing program at Carson-Newman University near Knoxville, Tennessee. Besides two chapbooks, she has one full-length collection, The Book of Awe (Iris, 2018). Her poems and creative nonfiction appear and are forthcoming in a variety of publications, including Oxford American, Crab Orchard Review, Ecotone, and A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia (UGA Press).