I kiss the son – an unexpected spark, warm
after the weary watching of this barren night.
Dead men and women stand on their heads in the pews around us,
indexes outstretched, rigorous, unyielding.
Whose son is this? Not mine (I am a dry tree),
but still filial joy shimmers in the air, the wind,
the breath from his mouth. Wild light laughs above us,
a stained-glass uproar. The brazen bowl is cracked,
is cracked. The barren shall sing:
“Look, the lofty are laid low, princes meet the dust.”
Come now, we will talk things over, iron out our differences.
We view the dead forms with compassion. Pieces of earth,
good will come to men.
This is a Christmas poem, I guess.
The second psalm of David has been circling my mind for the last couple of months: its paradoxes of despair and triumph, of violence and peace. Its dogmatic Messianism.
What does it mean to kiss the Son who receives nations as his heritage? How have you done it?
Since I haven’t posted since October, here’s a poem for you.
I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of writing a cycle based on the traditional missal sequence. Not much progress has been made so far, but this short invocation is inspired by that idea.
Invocation of the Son
Heavenly hosts are quite silenced before this vast miracle.
Great terrible creatures who shout their praise to the First and Last
beyond beginning or end, whose immortal voices shake the pillars
that hold time and eternity upright—Holy, holy, holy—
who lift themselves on gleaming pinions as far as East and West,
who always with fiery eyes behold the ever-burning Flame—
Now at His word they are all dumb and meek and still in wonder:
A mother cooks a simple supper for her large and rowdy family,
adding too much salt to the mixed vegetables, and the constant Flame
still consumes her heart and lights her face. A young man,
sinking to his knees in a dark storage room, rises from the workplace
directly from the dirt into the presence of the Lofty One.
First and last meet in the rounded softness of a newborn child
as they once met in a virgin’s womb—for the Word is flesh.
I’ve noticed (perhaps you have as well) that my poetry has become much more straightforward than it was several years ago, much less cryptic. This shift hasn’t been intentional, but I’m not dissatisfied with it. What do you think? Do you consider my earlier poems on this site inaccessible? Do you find this simplistic? I’d also like feedback on the ideal form and content of an alternative Anabaptist mass or even a broader liturgy.
Blow, silver trumpet—lead a loud refrain
Full of the glory of your perfect day.
Let four strong winds carry your song away
Until all worlds repeat its joyous strain.
Throb, golden lyre, with warm and welcome ring,
Through unknown spheres ablaze with cherubim,
The ecstasy of a thrice-holy hymn
Unmatched in time and place by those who sing.
Sing Him to Whom your melodies belong—
Sing Him of Whom their endless echoes cry.
Pour out His praise to infinite extents
Whose smile is twice the measure of your song,
Whose song, coursing through earth to highest sky,
Ravishes tired and tuneless instruments.
Today, for those of you who are unaware, is Canadian Thanksgiving. I’ve enjoyed the long weekend . . . Today I had nothing planned (we had a family dinner yesterday), so I ended up in Chinatown with a handful of cousins. We gawked around for a while, absorbing a little of the local culture, before stopping for a late lunch at one of my favourite restaurants in the area. Perhaps not my typical Thanksgiving Day, though it was great fun.
In any case, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time this weekend in a deliberate effort to feel thankful or grateful, and I don’t habitually do so. It’s a weakness of mine. I’m millennial enough that I take everything for granted. By the time we got home this afternoon, I felt unfocused and disjointed enough to warrant spending some time in Thanksgiving mode.
This sonnet is the result of that effort. It’s the first bound verse I’ve written in I-don’t-know-how-long, and it shows. But I think there’s something in it that’s worth hearing.
I knew a man once (not fourteen days ago) who went down into Jordan, rain falling down and down, the dirty water circling, eddying round his breaking stone-soul, foam-flecked, baptized into Death,
And the Baptizer stood by, beside him in the water, scarred feet set firm on the hard stone of the bottom, flotsam caught in his beard, the wind whipping his hair in the mist, water flowing round his belly.
But cold wet Death burns strangely warm in the cold circle of the horizon, and the Baptizer smiles, and a living stone floats in the rain.
It feels like an age since my last post. It’s been an age, to tell the truth. But here’s a poem (I’ll get back to prose eventually—I promise!) fit for a new year: a poem about life and death, about outer space and inner peace. Enjoy!
catch the starlight.
Reach out and up,
grasp blue-cold Sirius, gold Capella,
thrust your hand toward the furnace of Betelgeuse.
Reach, boy, and
touch the hands that hold
stars in place.
Touch them if you can
put your fingers to the holes
from which light falls
So far to fall. Wouldn’t you rather
earth met sky
black on black, brass on iron, and a sudden spark,
a man at the horizon,
Yes, it’s been almost five months since I last posted. I have few excuses, really.
For three weeks in July and August, I toured Poland with the Hope Singers. Writing about a trip like mine can be hard—how does one accurately and objectively describe large-scale worldview adjustments? But here’s a poem (because who says poems need to be objective? Subjectivity is half their beauty) that begins to describe my tour experience. Or at least, it describes a program on our second day of tour.
have you seen
my heart? I left it first
in Kolbuszowa, I think, at
the centrum kultury. have you asked
Craig, the American? have you asked
his wife? his kids? maybe
the lights guy knows
have you seen
my heart? have you asked
our audience? those unexpected people,
did they take it like they took
our program— our concert—
our muddled radośćią? and call for
have you seen
a heart full of prayer, and
half-learnt Polish texts, and connections
too vital to be faked? a heart
full of sandwiches and coffee and hospitality?
have you seen a heart
drenched, a Szczebrzeszyn chrząszcz*
in a summer thunderstorm,
in a sudden outpouring of
*Wół mnie pyta: “Po cóż pan tak brzęczy w gąszczu?”
We’d stopped in Szczebrzeszyn earlier in the day to see the beetle. Plus, Brzechwa’s famous poem remains one of my outstanding memories of tour.
P.S. I love feedback. If you have questions or comments about the style or the content of my writing, leave them at the bottom of the page. Or message me privately via my contact page.