Pascal's Wager is the kind of thing
you would discuss with a beer in your hand,
but then there was always a beer
in one of your hands, or passing from one to the other,
that summer we talked on your porch,
those rainy upstate nights, hot pavement steaming
as it cooled, the steam like fog close over a river,
beginning to lift toward invisibility.
I remember the wager like this: if we believe in God,
there is at least a chance we will see Heaven,
whereas, if we do not believe, we forfeit our place
in paradise. Pascal wrote there is no harm
in believing. If it turns out there is no God,
we've lost, he said, nothing, and if we do not believe,
and it turns out we are right, we have gained nothing,
Pascal not the kind of person, evidently,
to take satisfaction in having been right,
damned but right. I knew you drank. I saw the bottles.
I sat in your kitchen and I saw them, beside the stove.
You set your beer down to take a pot from the cupboard,
to pour rice into boiling water. You set it down again
to briefly admire, then chop, carrots and ginger,
to rinse red grapes, place them in a bowl,
all the while the two of us talking, a feast of ideas
and easy silence, as the small kitchen filled
with the smells of earth and, for all we knew,
for all we know, Heaven. When I think of you,
years later, it is usually because there is something
I want to tell you, or there is something I wonder about,
and I am alone in my wonder. I have thought
memory both Heaven and Hell. I wonder
if it is the same for you. Pascal's theology,
as I understand it, examines doubt
because he believes faith commodious beyond reason,
as is God, who has made earth our home,
and lets us mistake it for Heaven.
Copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Cleary-Langley
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission