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Poetry


To Be Honest: Why It’s Hard (but Helpful) to Tell the Truth

“Before you print a poem, you should reflect on whether this verse could be of use to at least one person in the struggle with himself and with the world.” – Czeslaw Milosz Being honest is often a hard thing for me to do. I don’t actually mind it when someone prefaces their opinion with, […]

Its Radiant Affliction: #Blessed by Empire, Wounded by God

On the day when The weight deadens On your shoulders And you stumble, May the clay dance To balance you. (‘Beannacht,’ John O’Donohue) When my grandmother slanders someone, she always follows it with benevolence. “He’s dumb as a rock,” she’ll say, “bless his heart.” “She ain’t worth a plugged nickel, bless her heart.” I think […]

Carrion Comfort

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

   Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

 

Featured image credit: Deepak sankat

G. K. Chesterton Presents: Christmas in July

Gilbert Keith Chesterton has become rather blasé in Evangelical culture. It’s no longer fashionable to spout Chesterton quotes, as myriad books like “The Quotable Chesterton” (eclipsed only by the coveted “More Quotable Chesterton”) and other anthologies make pinpointing the perfect Chesterton quote for the situation all but trivial. And thus Chesterton (along with Lewis, who […]

What If I Amount to Nothing?

What if I amount to nothing
And come to the end with empty hands?
No podium standing or trophy toting or
Byline, book-bound, crown-found meaning?

What if I am only a creature or object —
A lesson in futility, misplaced effort,
Humility lost and found and lost again.

Perhaps I cannot be optimized. What if
I accomplish nothing more than breath?
What will I be if I become only this, only me?
Flesh and bone filled with grace, drenched in mercy.

This is not a race and you cannot win.
All has been given and given and given.
It is given again each morning, each moment.
No scorecard in sight, no throne (save one).  

What if I amount to nothing
And come to the end with empty hands?
It will be enough.

For Walt So Loved the World

In honor of WW’s 200th birthday, here’s this. I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. (1-3) Whitman is my favorite narcissist. His poetry overflows with ego, but instead of being stuffy, his poetic self is so all-embracing, so […]

Beggars, a Poem: Notes on Need and Circumstance

This reflection and accompanying poem come to us from Becky Carlozzi. The night before my husband and I left for our fifteen-year anniversary trip to Italy, I received a phone call that my friend had been arrested and would spend several weeks in jail. The following day, staring out a window at 30,000 feet, I […]

What Shall It Profit? by William Dean Howells

What Shall It Profit?
William Dean Howells

If I lay waste and wither up with doubt
The blessed fields of heaven where once my faith
Possessed itself serenely safe from death;
If I deny the things past finding out;
Or if I orphan my own soul of One
That seemed a Father, and make void the place
Within me where He dwelt in power and grace,
What do I gain by that I have undone?

“Good Friday: No Way Out but Straight Through, Jack” – Vicki Hearne

“Good Friday: No Way Out but Straight Through, Jack”
by Vicki Hearne (1946-2001)

It’s like chance, but chance knocks but
Won’t open the door, and here’s
A greater thing than we have
Ever done (before we learn
What we are doing). The god
Will become so resplendent
With wounds our eyes must dazzle,

But now our hands hold aloft
The spears that dance in the light
From the hillside. Ecstasy,
Even, should not distract us:
The flesh must be opened full
To the light and wait, bleeding
In welcome. And in welcome

The elegant wounds will close
With all of us safe inside.
But we are not now to know
With Whom we trifle, not yet
To ask forgiveness lest we
Not plunge the gleaming weapons
Heartily. Grief will give wings

And song reveal the purple
Gold, the burnished ground, the flame.

______

featured image: Cross with arma Christi, wood cross, Joaquín López Antay, Fowler Museum at UCLA.

We Are Always in the Wrong: The Absurd Command, Part 2

Continuing from last week’s first part. Kierkegaard once (indirectly) wrote that it is an edifying thought that “before God we are always in the wrong.” Not because he was an apologist for the perfectionist strain of popular Calvinism (thank God) but because this view recalibrates our lenses to assess what actually is the case. A […]

The Imperfect Eye – John L’Heureux

From Picnic in Bablyon, L’Heureux’s journals from 1963-’67.

The Imperfect Eye

I saw tonight that he is on my side,
the lion. For the first time, I saw it.
And by God all the furniture got up

and danced (that hulking desk
a creditable tango) and I, though not much
on my feet, waltzed through Judah

like a Crazy-priest. Sometimes joy
is like that, coming quick as dandelions
springing to attention while the sun

shudders still—a little—from the melting
winter. Anyway here I was with lions
to account for and that desk

and questionable antics all along
(indignities of sun and dandelions
while our bones still creak with Lent)

and I thought God, what now, until
again I heard the music of the dance
again I waltzed through Judah.

“I something fear my father’s wrath” no more.

Distilled (still aging)

The following poem was written by Nathan F. Elmore

With special thanks to mezcal. I certainly didn’t find you.

Eight to twelve years, depending—
a hand
suddenly a blade
the heart stripped
every fire a thirst

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