Mother Among the Dustbins
Mother, among the dustbins and the manure
I feel the measure of my humanity, an allure
As of the presence of God, I am sure
In the dustbins, in the manure, in the cat at play,
Is the presence of God, in a sure way
He moves there. Mother, what do you say?
I too have felt the presence of God in the broom
I hold, in the cobwebs in the room,
But most of all in the silence of the tomb.
Ah! but that thought that informs the hope of our kind
Is but an empty thing, what lies behind? —
Naught but the vanity of a protesting mind
That would not die. This is the thought that bounces
Within a conceited head and trounces
Inquiry. Man is most frivolous when he pronounces.
Well Mother, I shall continue to think as I do,
And I think you would be wise to do so too,
Can you question the folly of man in the creation of God?
Who are you?
Recording reproduced by kind permission of the BBC. Stevie Smith reading 'Mother, Among the Dustbins' (1938) from a BBC Radio broadcast on 12th April 1956 - from Collected Poems and Drawings by Stevie Smith (Faber, 2018) Stevie Smith, 2018. Reproduced by kind permission Carcanet Press, Manchester.