Richard Newman: “The Godless Month”




This month the Shinto gods have left their shrines
to holiday at their annual convention,
eat rice cakes, take hot baths, and sip rice wines.
This month 8 million gods have left their shrines,
and yet our world still twirls without divines.
We wonder if they ever paid attention.
For nothing we’ve left sake in their shrines
while they lounge at their annual convention.

The month we held our wedding ceremony
the Shinto gods had already left the shrine.
Our priest performed the rites of matrimony
the godless month we had our ceremony—
costumes and chanting, beautiful baloney.
We’re married still, but stuck in quarantine
because we held our wedding ceremony
the month the Shinto gods had left the shrine.

We offered up our prayers and chanted verses
to gods who weren’t there for the ceremony.
We got the same luck, both blessings and curses,
regardless of our offerings, prayers, verses,
the mop that cleansed bad spirits—but what’s worse is,
despite no gods, the priests still made their money.
We offered up the prayers and chanted verses
to family and ourselves at our ceremony.


Richard Newman is the author of three books of poetry and one novel. His work has appeared in American Journal of Poetry, Best American Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many other periodicals and anthologies. He currently teaches at Al AKhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, where he lives with his family.

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