Reduced to its skeleton, the tree
remembers days of birds in bowers,
branches bent with the weight of fruit,
and now bent with the wait of days
when flourishing's a memory.
But still the soil nurtures.
Still the roots draw deep and branches
in their stasis grow in strength.
Still rosehips bud where flowers did
and the eagle,
grace in his pinions,
takes twigs and plants them
atop His rising hill.
Son of man,
speak to the bones.
Speak to the longing marrowed in bones.
Speak more than the mere promise of seasons:
speak deep to the riddles of blood and bone earth.
Son of man,
shall these bones live?
Another one of my favourite Christina Rossetti poems is one of her least known – a cycle of three sonnets entitled, “The Thread of Life”. You can read the original here. In response to her poem, I have attempted my own set of three sonnets, working with some of Rossetti’s original theme. You might also notice evidence that I have been reading Ezekiel lately! I hope you like it.Expectancy (After “The Thread of Life”) I. The dryness of these bones in heat of day, The fraying ends of hope, the valley wide Where questions echo, empty, un-replied, All speak futility in every way. Before so many bones, what can I say? What, shall these bones live? I’m not qualified To say or know such things: would God confide In sons of men, composed of bone and clay? For I myself am out of breath and parched, Sometimes a king, sometimes a vale of bones; And I have watched the armies as they’ve marched Up from their graves and into fields and homes, Yet here we wait, as exiles, though we’ve searched The sky for signs of breath; we wait, with groans. II. And so all hope fades into self-defeat; The rise of bones is fine for fairy-tales, We mutter in our teeth, but now the scales Have fallen from our eyes (so we repeat). We keep our gaze fixed firmly on our feet, Afraid to look too high, to pierce through veils, For everything we trust in always fails And every future tide will soon recede. Still in my ear this question: Son of man… Still: Shall these bones live? Yet no rustling breeze; No breath yet in these bones, though now I scan The valley floor, expectant. Static trees Stand still, skeletal, waiting for the plan, The signs of wind in faintly blowing leaves… III. Death now pervades the air, but soon the day – Now small, a kernel falling to the earth – Will lift the valley’s bones up with new birth, New life, thrusting old death out of its way. Now hope is faint, and dry bones seem to say That graves will win each battle, but the mirth Of life still in the soil will soon unearth A truth that our worst fears could not decay. And then our bones too will, with joyful shout, Connect, each bone to bone, and rushing breath Will come from every wind, without a doubt, And breathe into the slain; from underneath, The soil will burst forth with spring and shout Its victory chant – gone, gone, the reign of death.