Bone Winter

Reduced to its skeleton, the tree
remembers days of birds in bowers,
leaves atwitter,
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?

Expectancy (After Christina Rossetti’s “The Thread of Life”)

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.

The Bright-Shining Lord (After Ann Griffiths’ “I Saw Him Standing”)

I first discovered the amazingly visceral and love-saturated poetry of Ann Griffiths through my friend Erin who posted a couple of Rowan Williams’ translations on her blog a while back. The one that arrested me in particular was “I Saw Him Standing”, which you can read on Erin’s blog here. I’ve chosen it as an apt starting point for exploring Ann Griffiths’ work. Being male, it’s a little hard sometimes to copy her particular register of expressing love for Jesus, but I’ve done my best. I hope you all enjoy it.
 
The Bright-Shining Lord (After “I Saw Him Standing”)
 
The prince of love, he speaks in whispers,
whispers low to my heart’s deep voice.
Where deep calls to deep
in waterfalls, I stand, his breakers
crashing down around me with
their silent shuddering, the voice
of love amidst the thundering;
to me he calls.
 
No-one there is with eyes of such fire
seated upon his sapphire throne,
with radiance that shines my soul with its burning
and his brightness a bow in a rainy-day’s cloud.
Inexpressible, he is: how he blends such bright fury
with the gentlest whisper of his nail-scarred palms,
sparkling in glory over valleys,
the Son of Man.
 
Let the world have its dazzling allure and stories;
the eyes of this prince, this prince of love’s glory
shine truer than all of the world’s diamond lies.
He sits with the blind man and Zacchaeus, the road-side
his banqueting table, for Samaritans and me.
Sit with me, friends, at his morning-bright table
and we too will shine with him
eternally.