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Losing Religion and Finding God in The Day Zimmer Lost Religion
Paul Zimmer's poem "The Day Zimmer Lost Religion" tells of the narrator's respect and fear of Christ as a boy. He is now a man and dares to challenge Christ. The expected punishment does not occur, and Zimmer loses his faith in religion as he now perceives it.
The first stanza is about childhood fear of God. The narrator says, "The first Sunday I missed Mass on purpose / I waited all day for Christ to climb down" (1-2). Zimmer felt he deserved to be punished, to have Christ "Club me on my irreverent teeth, to wade into / My blasphemous gut and drop me like a / Red hot thurible" (4-6). Zimmer clearly expects something terrible to happen, emphasized by the presence of a watching, anticipating Devil.
Stanza two is about rebellion. "It was a long cold way from the old days" (8). Zimmer would never have dared to miss Mass in his younger years. Zimmer feels he has come a long way from his boyhood days, "A long way from the dirty wind that blew / The soot like venial sins across the schoolyard" (11-12). Is the dirty wind the forces in life that we cannot control? Is the soot the flaws we begin to see in our elders as we grow older? Has Zimmer observed how weak man can be and questioned why God allows our transgressions? In the schoolyard, "God reigned as a threatening, / One-eyed triangle high in the fleecy sky" (13-14). Does Zimmer feel God had reigned high in the sky and observed each sin we do? He equates the schoolyard with the world. Zimmer knows the minor sins of the schoolyard. God knows the sins of all.
The last stanza is about mature faith. Zimmer repeats that he "waited all day for Christ to climb down . . . and pound me / Till me irreligious tongue hung out" (16-19). Zimmer seems to feel that Christ is obligated to punish and that in fact He even enjoys it. Zimmer never mentions a God of love; is this why he feels there must be more to religion than what he knows now? In the last two lines, Zimmer tells us, "But of course He never came, knowing that / I was grown up and ready for Him now" (20-21).
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Zimmer could be telling us of the day he lost his boyhood religion and began, as an adult, to seek God.
Zimmer, Paul. "The Day Zimmer Lost Religion." An Introduction to Reading andWriting. 5th ed. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998.