Something Knows the Moment
Scott Owens
Main Street Rag
ISBN: 978-1-59948-302-3

Reviewer: Emilia Fuentes Grant


          Something Knows the Moment, Scott Owens’s most recent collection, presents questions related to faith and the nature of a creator, as well as matters of doubt and religion, and it simply must be read. There is an irreverence pulsing through these poems, offset by an intimate knowledge of the subject matter. Owens does not ask vague questions in this work; rather, he speaks of specific figures, cites passages, and challenges ancient archetypes in pursuit of his topic.
    
          A book in five parts, each section works around a central theme, among them creation, saints, angels, and the believers. Owens delves into each topic with gusto, rarely pausing for introspection.
    
          Concerning creation, the poet focuses on the relationship between the creator and his creation. Owens effectively rewrites the biblical history of the world, presenting the creator as he claims to be: in our image. This pedestrian, insecure, human interpretation of God recurs throughout the volume.

It was only chaos of course because it wasn’t his.
like any house you walk into and immediately want to change.
Like him it had always been there.    
    
...So finally with one atomic finger he leveled it all
into nothing, or rather into a mountain of glowing compost
he could dish out as he saw fit.

...But at night, in the dark, it moved again the way it wanted,
slithered across the lines he’d drawn, became fruitful
and multiplied in all the wrong ways, mixing race,
gender, species, leaving its gooey mess of creation
on his doorstep, window, every wall he’d made.

...So finally he said, “Fuck it. Here’s a boy to play with.
Let him watch you for a while.” And of course it consumed
the boy in no time, left him hanging cold on a tree,
and God, dejected and alone, retired, waiting
on the other side of darkness with his black book,
his fiery lake, an enormous chip on his shoulder.
                (“Resisting Creation”)
    
          The poet persistently challenges the deity of biblical figures, not just the creator but also the devil, the saints, and the angels. The serpent in the garden shares his experience with an eternal curse in “Remembering Walking”:
    
I remember walking
and do not miss it.
No one else hugs the earth
like I do,
wrapping body and soul around
the quiet curve of land. No one else
knows the measure of every grain
of sand they pass over. No one else
can know the scaly skin of pines,
twisted burl of oak, slick
puddle of plums changing into earth
like brothers.
    
          The work is not without a sense of humor. Consider this treatment of the heavenly angels.

He took all my pretty ones with him
the ones with tight bellies, long
streaming hair, faces thin as blades,
the ones who had fallen in love
with themselves, and had reason to do so.
He left me only these soft and silent
mounds of flesh, these uninspired,
these bodies needing wings twice
the size you’ve imagined.

He took all my hungry ones with him
the ones who ate meat, drank fire,
howled at the moon. He left me
not with shepherds but sheep
fattening on clouds, their wrinkled bodies
growing chins instead of desire.
(“Why Angels are Always Fat”)
    
          The most beautiful Lucifer gone and the good looking angels with him, all that remains are chubby, decadent cherubs. With his fluent knowledge of Christian lore, Owens validates his poems. This all checks out, the dots have been connected, our questions answered. His version may in fact be the truth.

          With the same liberty, Owens injects a humanist sensibility into infamous biblical cautionary tales.

He could’ve, should’ve defended her,
pointed out the rules were unclear,
unfair, only delivered to him,
argued the serpent was subtle, unnatural,
and it all smacked of entrapment,
questioned why put the thing there
to begin with if he didn’t want it so,
what was to be gained but loss.
He might’ve lied, said who’d want
to look at that all day anyway,
cock and balls, burning bush.
She would’ve done so for him,
carrying his sin inside, concealing,
nurturing, giving it room to grow.”
     (“Knowledge of Good”)

          Eve’s original sin, along with the fall of man, that which defined gender roles for centuries and influenced the political and social structures of countless nations, is revealed to be a story of a failed arranged marriage, plagued by the weakness and cowardice of Adam.

          Owens’s wit and breadth of knowledge are more impressive with each poem. Other titles of particular note include “A Brief Reading From the Hol(e)y Bible For Selective Homophobic Friends,” “Now Hiring Holy Angels,” and “Two Who Stayed.”
    
          There is presented is this work an intriguing, beguiling interpretation of the Bible and its characters; however, it is this reader’s opinion that Owens’s exploration of faith and the faithful is most significant.

He wanted to understand
absolute value, thought
that might mean the redemption
of everything, hookers, addicts,
his own life, thought
that might be what Jesus
meant, enemy as brother,
each other as I you,
judge not that you be
not judged
, but no matter how
he tried, understanding,
forgiveness, silver linings,
things kept coming up the same,
always less than zero.
    (“Absolute Value”)

          Here we witness a gentleness in Owens’s tone—not pity, but sympathy. The man in the poem struggles to find the concrete, the mathematical, the absolute solution to an intangible problem. The result is an endless quest for unattainable perfection.

          Something Knows the Moment is a must read book of poetry: witty, biting, revealing, and, in the end, hopeful.      

I do not believe God will bend
to kiss this mouth. I do not believe
the wine will turn to blood. But something
knows the moment of sunflower,
the time of crow’s open wing,
the span of moss growing on rock,
and water washing it away.

...This is the faith I’ve wanted, to know
that even now we are capable of such
sacrifice such willingness to love.
        (“Common Ground”)


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