Poem of the Week | May 20, 2019

This week we are delighted to present “Grace,” a new poem by Orlando Ricardo Menes.

Orlando Ricardo Menes is a Cuban-American poet, translator, editor and fiction writer who teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Memoria (LSU Press, 2019), Heresies (University of New Mexico Press, 2015) and Fetish, winner of the 2012 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.



We cannot buy it in bulk at Trader Joe’s,
Swap it for gold, or hoard shares of Grace, Inc.,
To hedge against bad luck. We acquire it
Without contract, promissory notes, or IOU’s,
Neither codicils nor fine print. We gather
Grace safe from litigation or severance,
And though we might breach the strictures of creed,
It cannot be forfeited or suspended. Rather,
Grace is asymmetric, parabolic, skewed to love,
Immanent and absolute, but also unpredictable
As quantum particles, both here and there,
Both full and empty, so it might arrive
inopportunely and thus slip under hope,
Upsetting the earnest prayer, teasing our faith,
Like some rain bands, copious cumuli,
That appear astray, unbidden, in stagnant skies
To drench at last the drought-scourged earth.


Author’s Note

My goal was to capture the essence of grace in a conceptual way that extends and complicates both its colloquial and doctrinal meanings, so I employed an array of conceits drawn from physics and other non-theological fields that I hoped would give a sense of its ecstatic immanence. My attraction to the conceit is very much rooted in my study of metaphysical poets like John Donne and Richard Crashaw. My other poems of the sacred go beyond the Christian and toward syncretisms with Afro-Cuban religions as well as the recovery of those elements of Taino spirituality that somehow survived the conquest, even if fragmented, fractured, yet will (must) still remain alive in the imagination.