Poem: “Playing Scrabble With God”

A poem by Julie Grass
Comment by Alicia Ostriker

Last Thursday

God and I were playing Scrabble

eating peanut brittle and listening to Joni Mitchell.

I used all my letters


and I saw a side of God

I’d never seen before.

First he insisted that whistles has no ‘h’

which is utter bullshit.

Then he started to pout

complaining all his letters were vowels.

And in a flurry of frustrated gestures

He “accidentally” knocked the board over

with such force that tiles flew

to the four corners of the room.


“Oh please” I said. “It’s just a game of Scrabble.”

And that’s when I saw his eyes fill.

“What is it, God? Why are you upset?”


“I’m losing my ability to spell,” he said.

“The letters are confusing and I’m not even sure

what some of them are.”


I went limp. If God couldn’t recognize letters

what else was out of his grasp.


And then God asked me to shepherd him down the stairs.


“But you are supposed to guide me,” I said.

“Things change,” he sighed.


Poetry editor Alicia Ostriker comments:

This is almost two poems in one. At first it seems to belong to a common genre of Jewish writing where we playfully (or not so playfully) question God. Jews have been doing this since the Book of Job. Gradually we realize that the “God” here is probably the speaker’s father or grandfather—a figure both of authority and comfort, who now is, in the popular phrase, “losing it”—Losing not only at Scrabble, but becoming mentally and physically frail. How do we cope when this happens to those we love? And can we cope if the Jewish God, too, is losing his grasp—his grasp even of his own scripture? Suddenly a domestic anecdote becomes metaphysical, and a game is more than a game.