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Poetry


“This World Is Not Conclusion” (Song of COVID-19)

By Emily Dickinson:

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond —
Invisible, as Music —
But positive, as Sound —
It beckons, and it baffles —
Philosophy — don’t know —
And through a Riddle, at the last —
Sagacity, must go —
To guess it, puzzles scholars —
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown —
Faith slips — and laughs, and rallies —
Blushes, if any see —
Plucks at a twig of Evidence —
And asks a Vane, the way —
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit —
Strong Hallelujahs roll —
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul —

– 1862

As part of the Emily Days series on Saved by Design.

Long Distance Churching

“For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit…” (Colossians 2:5, RSV)

You are still my Dearly Beloved.
Gone are the proximate days we took for granted,
the friction of shoulders
mingling of voices
intimate meals of bread and wine.

Now we lay our hands
upon our screens
and pass the peace
by pressing Send.

We fear the rumors of loves
sundered by separation
and renew our vows
by keeping our distance:

Where you go I will not go
Where you lodge I will not lodge.
Your pixelated people are still my people
And your God my God.

“Escape from Circumstances”: Dickinson in Quarantine

For Death – or rather For the Things ’twould buy – This – put away Life’s Opportunity – The Things that Death will buy Are Room – Escape from Circumstances – And a Name – With Gifts of Life How Death’s Gifts may compare – We know not – For the Rates – lie Here […]

“Come Crack the Frozen Branch-Ends / That’ve Had You So Long”: Foreword to The Elegy Beta

This foreword to our newest publication, The Elegy Beta, by Mischa Willett, was written by Mark S. Burrows. What are poems for? The question is a perennial one, and the answers range across a wide spectrum of musings. Poets, as “practitioners” of the art, have their own take on this. One of them, the German Romantic […]

The Mindset of Paradise Is Grace: What I Learned from Satan

“Me miserable! which way shall I fly Infinite wrath, and infinite despair? Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell … as far From granting he, as I from begging, peace; All hope excluded thus, behold, in stead Mankind created, and for him this world. So farewell, hope; and with hope farewell, fear; Farewell, […]

Departed to the Judgment: A Life Between Two Worlds

Are we in purgatory? The screaming sea of media and humans and texts and creations are overwhelming until they are not. And then, sometimes, you find yourself alone, but not alone. The noise is gone, but you are fully engaged in it. In a car, in bed, in the dark, in silence, these things simply […]

Human Being > Human Doing : A Favorite Piece of Spiritual Advice and Mary Oliver

In my first year of college, a few simple but profound words poured light into the deep, dark depths of my depression-riddled world. The words came to me thanks to an old friend of my dad’s who also happens to be a leader in a ministry I was beginning to dip my toes in. His […]

Just Getting By, but Decadently: Christian Wiman’s Survival Is a Style

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” – Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest Camp is not the obvious center in Christian Wiman’s new book of poems. But given his title’s invocation of affectation — Survival Is a Style — and given that camp is the supreme aesthetic (obviously), it […]

On the shortness and uncertainty of life

“O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we pray, deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life…” (Book of Common Prayer, pg. 504)

There are no good words for
our collective destination. Apart
from tragic, untimely, too soon.
The wound at the heart of the world.
Another angel added; a road well walked.

Words won’t do now, not for this.

The living bear all the grief of those who
were and are and will one day die.
Our plans, kingdoms, minds fall flat
before the period at the end of each line.
We don’t hold the pen, our days will end.
Where then is mercy? Whither hope?

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word wept

for the world, for you, for untimely,
and too soon. The Word weeps still
with sea-born tears that wash over
again, again with each new sentence end.

The mercy is presence not relief.
Hope is a face, two hands, scarred feet.
A quiet stand at the doorway and entry in
to a place where to end is only to begin.

Are We the Romans?

I remember purchasing Botch’s We Are the Romans at Earwax on State Street in Madison in October of 2003, and I remember buying along with it Dying Fetus’ latest record, Stop At Nothing. This was a time in which I not only listened to bands with names like Dying Fetus but also took perverse delight […]

“All My Friends Are Finding New Beliefs” – Christian Wiman

Taken, presumably, from the esteemed poet (and Mbird fave)’s forthcoming collection Survival Is a Style, this one appears in the January Issue of Poetry Magazine. Couldn’t ask for a more fitting capstone to my year of #seculosity, ht MS:

“First Coming”, by Madeleine L’Engle

From The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle:

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he cameto a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!