Jenifer Cartland: God Speaks to Each of Us as He Makes Us


I like to think of God murmuring to himself
as he kneads the dough,
wondering how long it will take
for the dough to feel like form, 
(that is, until it feels done
like the belly of a baby, I like to say).
His arms ache a bit.
He checks his watch
to see if it will be finished on time.

Then he sets it to rise,
while he sits down at last —
all the time questioning
did he knead it long enough?
will it over-rise?
must he punch it down before baking?
He nods with a half-smile
that all the little children
will be delighted to oblige him
his error
and punch it down
with astonished giggles
again and again.

He continues to mumble
through the whole rise,
sometimes goes so far
as to articulate words
(almost shouts)
like love, misunderstanding, confusion,
dumbfounded and he scratches his head,
an old professor
puzzled over his own formulations.

And here we now rise
out of such dough.

We press into the contours of the bowl
swell out of the top,
to be baked into this shape
we take for final,

formed against hands pressing,
against heat crusting,
against all the harsh limits
dough must face
in its creation —

pushing back, puffing up,
challenging the form
so approximately
assigned to us

until we at last speak
our broken words of life

and look back to our maker
with a thousand million questions,
having it seems heard none
of the words he spoke to us in our making.

We scrunch our eyebrows
at this first pinch of light

and thus begin,
feeling quite unprepared,
our long journey of recollection —
of making these precious, mumbled words
we find at long last
our own.

Inspired by Rilke, Book of Hours, I 59

—Jenifer Cartland

This poem was submitted by Jenifer Cartland who accepted the challenge to engage with the poem by Rilke. She writes, “I drafted the attached poem while reflecting on the first line of Rilke’s poem (I did not get past the first line).”

Several members of the Anawim Arts International Steering Committee have accepted the challenge of engaging with this poem by Rilke (see related post) and we look forward to sharing their work in our community conversations forum. We welcome and challenge you to join us through any of the practices mentioned in our post about words, images and spirituality in dialog to share your resulting written or visual art. You can reach us at to share your work.