Word Made Flesh

Feb. 27, 2010

Galatians 3:1 and John 1:14

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Christ was a poster stapled to the cross,

a human billboard lifted at the gate

of history. The advertisement cost

more than the national debt – the planet’s fate.

Christ was a letter that our Father sent,

a postcard mailed from an exotic land.

“Wish you were here,” the heartsick message went.

“I miss you,” said the holes nailed in each hand.

Christ was a megaphone, and all His pain

roused a deaf world to watch His passion play,

His resurrection. How could He proclaim

God’s desperate love in any louder way?

The Word was made flesh, and now we have heard

the love embodied in that holy Word.

The Strength of Grace

Feb. 26, 2010

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All-Powerful One: this is Your name to those

You rescue, and to those who You must crush

to rescue them. You drowned Your children’s foes

beneath the Red Sea in a foaming rush,

confused an army so that soldiers fled

from a ghost enemy, leaving a silent camp

for lepers to despoil of gold and bread.

You felled great Babylon with a holy stamp,

let Persia in to set Your captives free.

I can hear Miriam and Deborah sing

with Hannah, Esther, Mary, “Glory be

to our magnificent and mighty King

who threw down angels but prepares a place

for wretched sinners. Oh, the strength of grace!”

Bare Branches

A seasonally appropriate one from my college days…

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I watch bare branches shiver in the wind.

It should be spring, but winter knocks again.

The round hills wail out sadly, “Men have sinned

And left us with their curse! Cold, stupid men!”

What have I done to blight the coming spring?

How have we doled out curses two by two—

the unclean creatures marching, following

Into the clean-swept ark: a smelly zoo?

What comes out of our mouths makes us unclean.

The curses, lies lash smears from a dirty tongue.

Curses whip back. The wind beats on the screen.

Harsh wintry blasts blow where green leaves once hung.

I pull my jacket on and step inside,

like Adam, looking for a place to hide.

Why Sonnets – the beginning of my love of the poetic form

Sonnets are undisputably my favorite medium for poetry. I come back to them again and again, both for writing and for reading. Why do I care about them? Why does a member of Generation Y gravitate to this poetic form that goes back a long, long time in history? Why not free verse or some other form?

It all goes back to 6th grade and a book of prose. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle captured my imagination and faith at that time, and I loved how the author captured both sci-fi and Christianity in one book, science and the arts if you will. In that book is an conversation about sonnets that jumped out at me:

“It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm or meter, is it not?”

“Yes.” Calvin nodded.

“And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?”

“No.”

“But within the strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn’t he?”

“Yes.” Calvin nodded again.

“So,” Mrs. Whatsit said.

“So what?”

“Oh, do not be stupid, boy!” Mrs. Whatsit scolded. “You know perfectly well what I am driving at!”

“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but with freedom within it?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Whatsit said. “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

That idea of order and freedom was what caught my attention. From there, I only had to start reading Shakespeare’s sonnets. and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s, to realize the charm. Sonnets are very easy for me to wrap my mind around. Being 14 lines, they’re the perfect length. Not so long I lose interest; not so short they don’t have something to say. The rhythm and rhyme make for some great opportunities for creativity and make them easier to remember. That also has a tendency to make them more classic.  I’ve never quite gotten into the swing of odes or some of the other forms of poetry, but one quickly gets used to the cadence of sonnets and can enjoy it at the same time as the words and the overall meaning of the poem.

For me, for getting across what I want to say or expressing what I want to express, sonnets have built into them both a spur for inspiration and a rein to keep my thoughts together. When I try to come up with possible rhyming words for the end of a line, sometimes the possible words take me in exciting new directions or insights that are true but that I hadn’t thought of before. And it’s always a challenge to come up with rhymes that do not sound stale or over-used (never ever ever end a line with “God” or “love”). The length of the poem helps keep me from going off on a bunny trail, which is what usually happens when I try to write free verse. Then, I start with one concept in mind and digress to a completely different topic and end up throwing out the poem entirely. With a sonnet, I’m forced to encapsulate only a few related ideas, and the result is a much tighter, often more insightful, poem.

So, sonnets will always be my first love of poetry.

Lost Sheep

Feb. 22, 2010

All-Merciful One, when I observe some grass

a little farther off that looks so good,

and wander there, when I arrive at last

and see I was mistaken, but the food

a little farther still entices more,

I press on without thinking, or else sure

that the rewards are worth it, and ignore

the whispers it might be worse than before.

Some distance from my Shepherd, I repent,

and, scared, cannot move forward or go back,

but You’ve been watching since before I went

and find me quickly, taking the straighter track.

Gently, You always carry me back home,

the greenest pasture I have ever known.

To Virgins to Make Much More of Time

Feb. 20, 2010

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” How sweet.

How classically misleading that advice.

A garden needs simply flowers to be complete,

not rosebuds, though of course roses are nice.

Tulips boast as many shades of paint,

brighter, rarer than a rose to bloom,

and thornless. Red hibiscus, like a saint,

pushes out to heaven its confident perfume.

Delight in the flora before you; do not pine

for every lover’s favorite just because

of its high repuation. You have time,

so celebrate each flower for what it does

in that garden, life. You’ll see it twice as fair,

taking time to notice the joys already there.

For Aragorn

I bear responsibility. That’s all

that I have strength for. I do not want power

in such abundance, for in every hour

I see my maiden in a silver hall

where elvish songs that frolicked now but crawl

under the silent trees—she in the tower

fading with every drooping elvish flower,

waiting for word, for a silver trumpet’s call.

Your gold does not entice me. I will do

my kingly job for men who’d die with me.

Temptation roars with war; I am not swayed.

The evil comes, but I will run it through.

My sword is strong, and I am not yet free.

If I break now, I lose both men and maid.