One of the difficulties of being a Mormon is accepting the love of God and trying to develop a personal relationship with him, while simultaneously accepting his absence, to live life and make decisions without him telling you every choice you should make.
James Goldberg’s “Ghazal” illustrates that difficulty poetically. The poem is a formal ghazal, meaning that it begins with a rhyming couplet and continues with unrhymed couplets after, each ending on the rhyme initiated by the first couplet. Goldberg’s poem begins with the rhyme “free again,” which is echoed throughout in variations of “—ee again.” This gives the poem a certain amount of momentum, pulling the reader through each couplet to hear what the next rhyme will be, like this:
Faith was the beam I removed—and went blind
You had to wash the clearness out with mud so I could see again
I left you once—because you told me that I should
When I come back, what will I be again?
The altar has room, James, for both of your legs
So don’t ask for that promise on just one knee again
Ghazals originated anciently in Arabia, which immediately connotes Jerusalem, and both the Old and New Testaments. Goldberg touches on several biblical stories—Adam and Eve, Moses, Jonah—before landing on the story of Jesus, his experience in Gethsemane, and his healing of the blind man with clay.
But the next stanza, the one when (I assume) Christ tells the man to leave, that one is less explicit. That stanza only says that the man told him to leave, and then he wondered what would happen when he was gone. This is like the story of the ten lepers, when Jesus told them all to go see the priests, and they weren’t healed until they left.
It must have been a little scary to have to leave Jesus, and not know if you were going to be healed. The lepers must have wanted so badly to stay with Jesus, and when he told them to leave, it may have been a difficult thing to hear. But this is the great anxiety of our religion—to come to love and worship the Savior, but to have the faith that we can keep living in this world without him physically by our side. The faith that it took to obey Jesus, and leave him, is the same faith we must develop if we are to become like him. We must have the faith to act, knowing that with his Atonement, he can heal us.