Lent 20: Monday of Third Week

Yes, the seas stir;
the Son, walking atop the waves, does not mind,
a sovereign treading the puddles of his soil.

We, quaking in the boat
or sinking with the self-consciousness of faith,
look aghast and fret. Teacher! The waves consume…

But see how He strides.
See the waves bend and break at His touch.
See Peter stand again, drenched in doubt, shaking with truth.

Do not be afraid.
He remembers we are dust, drifting atop the earth’s waves.
Watch and see: He does a new thing. Rise and believe.

Even So, Even So (After Denise Levertov’s “Suspended”)

When I first read Denise Levertov’s “Suspended”, it amazed me with the perfect way it blended the starkness of life with the delicate beauty of grace. You can read her poem here, in a wonderful post from CPX of their favourite religious poems, and here is my own response to Levertov.

Even So, Even So (After “Suspended”)

No sense can receive the sense
Of what it is that catches me;
You sing of joy, joy, in your heart
And I, sometimes, can know that joy, and yet
It is not clapping which sustains.
Hands that have no atoms hold me;
Even so, even so, in their infinite, silent substance they
Keep my frail floating self from
All these chasms that it seeks.

Being (After Denise Levertov’s “Flickering Mind”)

Well, November is running away from us and so far I’ve only managed one poem for my 12 Poets Project this month. So it’s time for another one, this one inspired by Denise Levertov’s wondering “Flickering Mind”, one of the best poetic expressions I have read of the human mind’s struggle with religious devotion. You can read Levertov’s poem here. Levertov’s poetic form is quite fluid, so I have gone with a looser interpretation of it here than I usually do. Happy reading!

Being (After “Flickering Mind”)

In this multiplicity,
this many-stranded, fragmentary
fold of life, I run
    and fly
and flee from You, my God,
   who Are
the constant in the changing whole.
I am absent, You are
   firm,
the still point in this constant blur,
the first thought and the final Word.
   I sit
and yet I seldom sit. Martha-movement
takes my sight
and I evade Your searching eyes.
   To stop,
to rest, to be before You,
this is costly; nonetheless
I live not if not
   within You.

 

The Fig-Tree and the Worm

When complaint has its basis in the nature of the divine,
           appealing to justice and mercy and truth,
                        waiting for signs which tarry now yet
                        will come without delay,
           when complaining stands
                      at the ramparts and waits,
                      and wears as its armour thick faith,
                      then the fig-tree will bud and the olive crop soon
                                   will blossom where now it yet
                                            fails.

But you, indomitable Jonah, beneath your angry shade, are
            more my mirror. Grace frustrates you and you fly
                        against its Ninevah-bound commands,
                        to Tarshish, pride wounded,
            rebellion grounded
                        in the soil of shame,
                        and wearing the armour of Self.
                        Then the palm-tree withers and the worm consumes
                                    the shelter of deflected
                                                guilt.

Better be Habakkuk, waiting with truth, waiting expectant;
            better hope, trust and complain in the same breath:
                        for hope grows where doubt cannot fester
                        and worms eat at the dawn.
            Better confess first
                        then obey in truth, than                  
                        obey with scaly skin and forked
                        tongue (turning fists inwardly to the sky); better
                                  to trust with the rigour of
                                              grace.

George MacDonald and the Regenerated Imagination

Well, our month of looking at George MacDonald is now finished, and to conclude it here is an essay I have written on MacDonald’s work. We have been focusing here through August on MacDonald’s poetry, but his work was far broader than that, so this essay considers not only his poetry but also his many works of fantasy and criticism. I hope it can give you all an interesting entry point into the richness of his work as a writer.

George MacDonald and the Regenerated Imagination

Fragments of a Prayer (After George MacDonald’s “A Broken Prayer”)

I’ve been slipping behind a bit in my poetry project this month. There’s been a lot going on in my life! But it’s time to start catching up. So today I’m looking at one of George MacDonald’s most complex but also compelling poems, “A Broken Prayer”, a poem written in a hybrid of free and blank verse which contains some of his most striking imagery of faith. You can read MacDonald’s original poem here, and here is my response to it.
 
Fragments of a Prayer (After “A Broken Prayer”)
 
O Lord, my God, how long
Shall I fret with striving and with anxious joy?
How long, great King, will I stomp at Your throne,
Sure within myself that I know best,
A child prince with petulant demands
While You patiently reign, grander plans at hand?
 
I take Your gifts and clutch them to my chest,
Afraid of vapour, fearing fading dreams;
The future, vacuum-like, ushers me in,
Yet I cannot see it with my haughty eyes
And so I turn my gaze towards myself.
 
I would be a child
Resting at Your breast, no longing, no pride,
But the smallest quake of earth, each gust of wind
Sends me searching for the shadows where I wait,
Mementos and anticipated futures in hand,
Clinging to whatever I can hold,
Afraid that You are not found in the storm.
 
Most mighty One,
Take my best thoughts, my best moments,
Multiply them in Your soil; make me a harvest
Of Your grace and truth, at work in every field.
The grandest tree grown apart from You cannot know
The life that bursts from Your ground, revives
The driest trunk, the feeblest stem; it lives
But if it breathes not You, it does not breathe.
O Lord, take
My weakest striving, my haughtiest dreams;
Take my stem which writhes away from You.
Take my fears and my self-sufficiency
And graft me into You.