Response to Poem What If
by Dana Rondel
On Saturday, April 7, 2007, I had the opportunity to hear Marvin X
recite his poem, “What If,” live in Philadelphia. The poem served as the
preface for the readings from his book, “Beyond Religion, Toward
I have shared only a portion of his poem within the preceding section,
but to hear it in its entirety, each word, from beginning to end, left my
heart filled with an emotion that I have yet to find an expression for.
Perhaps the best that I can say at this time is, what I felt is
indescribable. During the reading I found myself nodding my head and
saying, “yes, that’s right. Yes, that’s right. What if God is all
of these things? What if?”
After the poem was completed, I had much to say about all that I’d
heard, but I remained silent. I was compelled by my spirit to be still and to
reflect. I reflected mostly on the language, the words. “What if God
is…What if God is….” I thought about the duality of language. The
art of language. The power of language. I thought about definitions, symbolism
As a writer and lover of language, I traveled back through my mind
remembering the phrases of the poem that most moved me. As I thought
about them I asked myself: Was it the words themselves that opened me up,
touching my heart and stimulating my mind? Did I come alive while
feeling the vibrations, the rhythm, and listening to the poetry and song of
language? Did I, as well, begin to feel guilty, because of what I had
just heard, the broader definition of God? I was reminded that at times
I’ve either forgotten or had not known that all is God? Did I forget or had
I not known that all that I’ve hated, cursed and feared were, too, God?
The language, the words that were spoken, had on one hand reminded me that
I am still a prisoner of my own ignorance and guilt, but the words had,
too, created for me a deeper awareness that had also set me free.
The mother that I have at times hated, the father that I have at times
resented, the boy, the girl, the man, the woman that I’ve neglected
to love without conditions, the alcoholic, drug addicts and dealers and
abuser that I have feared, too, are God. What if God is the look of
hope or the look of hopelessness we have seen in the eyes of every woman,
man and child, but refused to recognize, because too many of us have been
taught that God is not human? What if God is?
What if there were no words to describe God? There was no oral language
for what exists? What if life and all that is could be identified only
by a feeling, by the energies that move us, by the breath we breathe?
Would we then more easily recognize our sameness? What if God is all and all
is God? If God is all and all is God then why does the word God separate
The duality of language. It is an art, it is poetry, it is song, it is
vibrations and rhythms that have the power to move us toward or away
from one another.
As we reflect more deeply on the words of the poem, as we come to
better understand its language, in the end, we learn that God has no
definition. God simply is…