What image of God does Carson portray in “The Truth about God”?
In her poems collection “The Truth about God”, published in 1995 as part of her work “Glass, Irony and God”, Carson gives an insight on her view of God. She shatters his untouchable divinity and makes him vulnerable, almost humanly fragile. For Carson, there seems to be a duality concerning God, consisting of the supernatural on one hand, and the banal, sometimes even vulgar on the other.
The collection consists of 18 short poems, none of them written in verse, but mainly subdivided into stanzas of 3 lines each. There are only 5 exceptions to this rule, more precisely in “The God Fit” (p. 40), “The God Coup” (p. 41), “God’s Beloveds Remain True” (p. 47), “God’s Mother” (p. 48) and “God’s List of Liquids” (p. 52). Both in “God’s Mother” and “God’s List of Liquids”, the formal differences seem to hint on the idea of structure and order. Both poems contain a list, which could be interpreted as an allusion to God’s habit to organise, to set up a framework or even a divine master plan. “The God Fit” ends in one single line, “The God Coup” is a four line poem and “God’s Beloveds Remain True” is not subdivided into stanzas at all. The underlying connection between these three poems is the desperation that lies in feeling abandoned by God. People try “to escape God who is burning” (p. 40, l. 6) while they feel “untended” (p. 40, l. 7). He is described as “a grand heart cut” (p. 41, l. 1) and while “man surges” (p.41, l. 2), he does nothing more than “tarry” (p. 41, l. 4). In contrast to the descriptive address of “The God Fit” and “The God Coup”, the voice of mankind expresses itself in “God’s Beloveds Remain True”, bewailing the status quo. The irony of feeling helpless and forsaken while “Chaos overshadows” (p. 47, l. 1) and not having the option to leave God behind because they “have been instructed to call this His love” (p. 47, l. 29) clarifies the forlorn position of God’s beloveds. The term “beloveds” itself bears a sarcastic undertone when the speaker tells about them being “strangled by bitter light” (p. 47, l. 3), even “slit and drained out” (p. 47, l. 20). “The God Fit”, “The God Coup” and “God’s Beloveds Remain True” form a trilogy of misery, leading from God’s infernal terror over God’s indifference regarding mankind to God’s tyrannical leave-no-options policy.
Another aspect of God is discussed in “God’s Woman” (p. 46) and “God Stiff” (p. 46). These two poems ostensibly deal with the role of women in the process of creation. God asks “His woman” (p. 46, l. 1) whether she is “angry at nature” (p. 46, l. 1) without making clear what exactly he means by the term “nature”.
The woman replies that she does “not want nature stuck / up between” (p. 46, l. 2f) her “legs on” (p. 46, l. 3) his “pink baton” (p. 46, l. 3). Furthermore, she does not want it “ladled out like geography whenever” (p. 46, l. 4) his “buckle needs a lick” (p. 46, l. 5). The image of God suddenly undergoes a change from supernatural fiend without a cause to a sexist male creator, who formed man after his image but forgot about the humiliating position of women in creation altogether. The idea of devising a reproduction process in which one (the male) has to penetrate the other (the female) in order to soil the female body with the actual semen and, thus, secure the species’ population is portrayed as unnecessary and degrading. His possibly uttered excuse does not convince the woman of the necessity of the human spawning procedure and God is cornered with the question “what do you mean Creation” (p. 46, l. 6). This negative image is underlined in “God Stiff” by the fact that for the woman, “His zipper going down” (p. 46, l. 6) sounds like the word “Treachery” (p. 46, l. 6). If God really created man after his image, all negative and sexist behavior patterns of men must originate from God himself. He is part and root of all sexist male behavior.
The portrayal of God is completed in “God’s Justice” (p. 49) when the reader is told that “in the beginning there were days set aside for various tasks” (p. 49, l. 1). One of those days was reserved for God to create justice, but instead “God got involved in making a dragonfly” (p. 49, l. 3). Watching his new creation, he “lost track of time” (p. 49, l. 4) and completely forgot about his actual plan to bring justice to the world. In deep fascination, God beholds the dragonfly, every little detail catches his eye and his attention. He is described as the stereotype human male who just found a new toy, be it some sort of electronic entertainment device or some other trivial matter. All his effort and all his devotion rests with something that can, objective, be seen as far less important than e.g. the concept of justice, yet there is no Sign of God being about to take notice of this antagonism. He is characterized as being rather unreliable, and assuming that there are at least 2 million different species of animals on this planet to fascinate him, expectations for justice to be created are sure to be disappointed.
One intriguing fact is the textual connection between “God’s Woman” and “God’s List Of Liquids”. In the latter, the list of liquids ends with the substantive “Time” (p. 52, l. 16). The context of this list is that “God had the book of life open at pleasure” (p. 52, l. 3) and was arranging terms under the headline “For I made their flesh as a sieve” (p. 52, l. 6). However, the noun “Time” also appears in “God’s Woman” when God urges his woman to choose between “Fire. Time. Fire”
(p. 46, l. Taking into account the contents of “God’s Woman” and “God’s List Of Liquids”, it seems probable that God lets his woman choose between pleasure (the term “Time” appears on the page “PLEASURE” of God’s book of life) and desolation (the desolation of fire when God “is burning” as on page 40, line 6 of the poem “The God Fit”). It remains uncertain what his woman chose, but the idea of both concepts having the potential to negatively alter the “flesh” (p. 52, l. 6) of man, one by burning, one by aging, leaves the conclusion that even the items considered as pleasure by God carry a foul side effect for his creation.
Carson describes God as not being compatible to the human nature. What God considers a pleasure is considered a curse by man. God is differently minded than we are, and due to this fact, he lost interest in us a long time ago. “Our blind gestures / parodied / what God really wanted” (”My Religion”, p. 40, l. 27ff) and God reacted by retiring from his business of taking care and pursued his ambitions and hobbies such as creating more simple, but also more beautiful things such as dragonflies. What for us feels like God’s anger or the impression that we were abandoned could just be the frustration and resignation of a God who created a being that is unable to conceive him. Carson appears to pity God and she intends to hold up her faith to support God until “all the people in the world” (”My Religion”, p. 39, l. find out just “how simple it would have been” (”My Religion”, p. 39, l. 5) to give God “this simple thing” (”My Religion”, p. 40, l. 32) that he really wanted. God is not there to help us, he needs our help until we have learned to see and listen, or as Carson says it “my religion makes no sense / and does not help me / therefore I pursue it” (”My Religion”, p. 39, l. 1ff).
 Carson, Anne. Glass, Irony and God. Introduction by Guy Davenport. 1995. New York: New Directions. New Directions Paperbook, Fifth Printing. “The Truth about God”, 39-53
 Carson, Anne. Glass, Irony and God. Introduction by Guy Davenport. 1995. New York: New Directions. New Directions Paperbook, Fifth Printing.
 Nisimov, Felix. The Physics Factbook. Edited by Glenn Elert. 2003. “Number of Species”