The Book of Sophia – a poem by Raymond P. Hammond

The Book of Sophia


when i was in high school
i sat in a pew at a church
in blue ridge, virginia
and asked for the gift of wisdom
i wanted to be immersed in the light
to be bathed in it like the colors
coming through the stained glass
illuminating dust particles in pinks
and purples and yellow golds
and heavenly blues


i had been baptized out of fear
at age seven and remember feeling
no different coming up for air
than I did upon the startling dunk
that threw me back and immersed
me in tepid water


in my early twenties
i studied in the basement
of that same church for a year
to earn a certificate from liberty
university but it was the same
stories, the same twists, the same plot
the same helplessness
the same blind faith
the same misguided self-righteousness
that the bible was literal and inerrant
the same superficial immersion
into the text and reading

i did not want to just read what the words said
i wanted to be immersed in the meaning
i wanted to sink right into the pages
of the bible and disappear into a true understanding
that i knew I could find beneath the pages
somewhere so deep that it only existed
between the india paper and the genuine leather binding
in the smell that wafted from the pages
every time i opened the book


when i was in high school
i had prayed for wisdom
ironically i would find it
in a spirituality of disbelief
that i found as i drowned
immersing myself in the space
that existed around the words


Raymond P. Hammond is the editor-in-chief of both The New York Quarterly
and NYQ Books. He holds an MA in English Literature from New York
University and is the author of Poetic Amusement, a book of literary
criticism. He lives in Beacon, NY with his wife, the poet Amanda J.
Bradley, and their dog Hank.

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