Awkward doubts – two poems

Awkward questions

I was once a rather quiet sceptic.
Tolerant of others’ cherished illusions,
(even those that seemed rather septic)
and unwilling to provoke confusion.
Why should I dampen their enthusiasm
with awkward questions and doubts
that might perhaps reveal the chasm
between what their faith made them shout
and what, meanwhile, I quietly thought.
But it always seemed that their credulity
was far too easily bought.
And having once let faith make a fool of me,
I know that faith that’s blind is no harmless charm
and I’ve heard too often of beliefs having effects that are fatal.
(If you doubt that belief can do active harm
Consider Nicaragua’s mortality rates – maternal and pre-natal).
So I find I must, politely but firmly, refuse
to tolerate sermonising in dissenting silence
(however good may appear the sermon’s news)
And so, without resorting to violence
I now ensure my doubts get said.
I try not to let dogma thrive uninterrupted,
or tacitly permit narrow-mindedness to spread.
And though it can sometimes seem disruptive,
I won’t believe someone’s words just because
they claim that they have seen the light.
When someone preaches fanatically about the wonders of Oz
I’d rather mention their emerald specs than be dishonestly polite!


Doubt and fear

Even when my eyes were damp with tears
You wouldn’t hold me close. Left me lonely.
I, the sceptic who wanted to believe in you.

For you feared my doubts would interfere
With the strange things you needed to believe.
You, who told me I was afraid of what was true.

But it was not my awkward doubts, but your tearing fears
That in the end were fatal to our love. How we grieved!
We, who had not imagined the pain our love could turn into.

And so you rejected me, and disappeared
To chase your illusions uninterrupted. With only
They who would not challenge your strange world view.

Mere differences of opinion can’t tear friends or lovers apart
It is only fear that has the power to choke the loving heart.


These two poems were written for the Friday Five at Poefusion – to write a poem including the words sceptic, awkward, uninterrupted, fatal, damp.

The first one is roughly clerihewish – deliberately using clumsy or eccentric rhymes and odd line lengths, which seemed to support the idea of awkwardness. The reference to Nicaragua was inspired by this article.

The second poem is more or less a sonnet – though the rhyme scheme (ABC ADC ADC ABC EE) isn’t typical. And I’ve thrown in a pronoun pattern too. I did wonder whether it would be better to use just the first twelve lines without the “moral” at the end – what do you think?

Though they may seem very different in mood, there is a definite connection between the events in the second poem and the attitude expressed in the first.


14 responses to “Awkward doubts – two poems

  1. Powerful poems, Lirone. I like someone who can speak their mind on issues that bother them. Sometimes someone else’s perspective can open up your one track mindedness to new possibilities. If only everyone could see it that way life would be much simpler.

    I also like your second poem. I think the last two lines pulls everything together. I wouldn’t change a thing except maybe finding someone who will treat you the right way and love you unconditionally. You are a kind person from what short time I’ve known you. Have a nice day.

  2. I think the first poem is jarring in the transition but it makes it all the more powerful. We are each of entitled to an opinion but when words maim and kill, we also have a moral obligation to speak up.

  3. Thanks Michelle – I would certainly like that!

    Brian, the contrast between the two poems was so strong that I nearly put them in separate posts, but actually I find they say more together than apart. And though different, they’re both very real to me.

  4. Lirone: I thought both of these were interesting. I agree with the message wholeheartedly in your first one, and the second one, I loved the construction and rhyme scheme. I wouldn’t take out the last couple – it actually adds a lot to the piece.


  5. Well personally, of course, I think the ‘moral’ of the story sums it all up. Plus I feel it gives an ending of peace and hope after a rather sad and angry message: no one and nothing is condemned at the end but fear itself, which it is up to us either to embrace or to face up to.

  6. personally organized religion has left an eternally bad taste in my mouth,, and the truth be told,, i am more willing to suffer the consequence of eternal damnation that sell my soul to any religion currently orchestrated at the hand of man…

    i loved both renditions,, but i was able to identify more with the first one…

    in addition, i just want to let you know i am posting my new poetry on justpaisley…. now, and i sure would love it if you came over and had a look….

  7. Hi Lirone. These are both very thought provoking. One interesting connection between each, I thought, was the admission of a challenged faith. If I look back upon my own experiences, it seems fairly clear that each challenge to my faith presented me with a new belief. Yet so many of those beliefs have gone by the wayside too, enveloped and mutated into something else.

    So, having said that, I would say that the moral in your second poem (while it is one that many would empathise with) might clash with the conclusions that others might have drawn from an experience that you have conveyed with wonderful clarity.

    I am guessing that might have been the intuition that led you to consider leaving the moral out. Personally, I dont think it detracts from my reading of your poem, whether left in or out. And you wouldn’t have been true to yourself if you had left it out. Thanks.

  8. OK, the final couplet stays by popular demand!

    Why did I want to leave it out? Partly structurally – both in metre and tone it is very different from the rest of the poem. But also because I am aware I tend to give all my poems some sort of happy ending – or at least an optimistic one, and I sometimes feel that this is artificially tacked onto the poem. And yet I do feel that a poem is unfinished if it doesn’t present something positive!

    Brad, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I’ve never really had any religious faith to challenge – and the two occasions when I’ve tried to believe in something supernatural (Buddhism and energy healing) have both been very difficult for me – there came a point when despite my wish to believe the discrepancy with the evidence became too glaring.

    So the scepticism I refer to in both poems isn’t scepticism about my beliefs, but about other people’s beliefs, and the effect that my doubts have on their faith. I’m not quite sure what conclusions you feel others might have drawn – if you stop by again, I’d be interested to know more!

  9. Thanks Lirone.

    I read ‘Awkward questions’ as the tale of a transition from silent scepticism to a vocal scepticism, and the impetus for refusing to remain silent is an awareness that beliefs have the power to cause harm. Part of that awareness comes from direct experience of being made to feel foolish by someone (or something) who was believed in. So that is what I mean by a challenge to faith in the first poem.

    In Doubt and Fear, I see a distinction made between believing in a person on the one hand, and believing in their beliefs on the other. If I play the role of the “me” in this poem, I can quite easily accept that my belief in and love for the other is independent of my belief in their own beliefs. My belief in the person is unconditional. But the other person may not see it that way. My doubt in their beliefs is a challenge to their individuality, and that causes them to fear. Eventually, that fear results in a separation. My belief in the other fails to bind us together, so my faith (belief) is challenged.

    Now I must decide how to interpret my position, since that will determine how I act next. I have lost the person I loved, and I am hurt. I might conclude that fear was ultimately responsible, and that is certainly an optimistic belief to hold. On the other hand, if I put myself in the position of the person who left me, they might point the finger at my doubt.

    The last line reads equally well for me if I replace fear with doubt. What do you think?

  10. Brad, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    I see what you mean about the first poem -though actually it wasn’t believing in him that made me change my mind. The problem was that he had some rather weird and problematic beliefs. Particularly problematic was his belief that, through his reading of my energy, he knew more about what was going on in my psyche than I did (!). And if I dared to disagree he said I was in denial about what was really happening…. And if I questioned the basis for his judgements, he said I wasn’t being open minded about energy etc.

    So yes, he would indeed have said that my doubt was the problem, but I would very strongly disagree.

    I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with doubting and questioning – the problem comes when we are so afraid about the possible outcome that we can only accept one answer, and block out any evidence that points at the other answer.

    So for me the whole point of the last line is that it’s fear, not doubt, that’s the problem. Does that make sense?

  11. i found out i was leaving the old link to justpaisley…. so i am popping in to correct that….

  12. I think it’s safe to say that your doubts were well founded, Lirone. I see what you mean about the fear. Thanks for taking the time to chat, and thanks for making such engaging poetry.

  13. Doubt and Fear captured me.

  14. silence is often a wise preference… and then i see the intimacy of love is jarred by the reality of questioning, doubt and fear… how helpless one can become by another’s action.. helpless to hold onto someone who has already let go, never held on… a beautiful piece of a thoughtful mind

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