The Book Of: A Poem by Michael Ratcliffe

By Michael Ratcliffe


The Book Of

I have a book that I no longer believe.
I read it every few years to test the space
between certainty and doubt.

Three copies sit on my shelf.
The oldest, a translation from Wales,
with words I do not know,
carried to Utah, and then
back east along the dissenters’ trail.
I see in it belief, the kind that lasts
even when outward forms become corrupt
and faith in man is lost.

My grandfather wrote his name in one,
though I don’t think he ever read it.
When I was a sinless child,
I could not understand
how he could belong to the Church
and still smoke and drink and chew.
Now I know that life
cannot be read as neatly printed lines.

The copy I prefer to read
is a reprint of the original.
Chapters, no verses; long blocks of text,
with errors, just as it was dictated,
written down, and typeset,
the work of fallible men,
trying to understand God.

Michael Ratcliffe’s poetry often touches on themes of spirituality, family, place, and society. His poems have appeared in various print and on-line journals, including previously in Fourth & Sycamore. His chapbook, Shards of Blue (Finishing Line Press, 2015), tells the story of his great-great grandparents’ lives on the Kansas frontier from the 1850s through the Civil War and then their divorce in the 1870s. He can be found on-line at


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