I: Leaving home
They tell me He is dead; you say it, now,
and frown. It crossed your mind before,
a thousand times before, as it did mine.
We knew that He would die, He was so old
and tired of living. Still, the news is hard,
flinting a light of anger in us, lodged
in our darkness. They say the Lord is Dead.
Where will we go now? We cannot stay
in this strange house, its draperies given to moths,
its altars darkened, squatting beneath webs;
the candles have burned down, the tapers bend,
tired acolytes go back upon the streets
to wait the birth of God in tavern lights.
The darkness is complete. He comes no more.
Here, where the hymn once rang to Heaven’s gate
soft sounds of restless feet shuffle on stone
identifying rats. The filtered light
of ancient saints is mottled on the pews
where dust accumulates. These rotting pipes
mark where the organ once translated wind
into a thundercloud of matinsong.
they sang for Him – and now (if He is dead)
there’s no point to their song. The dull amen
flaps like a bat among the columns there
and sinks to earth again.
If He is dead …
His breath rattled across the daylight land
for years before He died, and His voice croaked
out of dark places, calling for Love’s return.
Love too had died,, and seeing she had died
is what killed him. We sing His dirge, and wait.
The sound of absence is our evensong.
The sedative distilled from dogma’s flower
had drugged a dormancy in renaissance;
our opiate dreaming of eternal life
burgeoned into mystic emptiness
and bred narcotic fumes of living truth.
A thousand creed-shaped hammers drove the nails
first into Messianic hands – at last,
into the paper casket of the King
--and now we bury Him and say, “It’s done.”
And so it is. No one remembers Him.
(Before He died, He sent us messengers,
but none would listen – we would make them gods,
walking on water where we could not follow,
or in the wind where they could not be heard.)
Then is God dead? And if the wind is burning,
and if the thing called man has made it so,
and if the future crawls with leaden warnings
-- what man is god enough to change it now?
II: Among the Swine and Pods
A silent hour containing ancient phantoms
inhabits me. I have been in strange places,
a far countryside where the Huntress reigns.
She walks, the leprous lady in the wind,
and I have seen the incense rise to her.
Now is the darkness closed about me. Now,
out of the silence after the storm’s eye passes,
a voice … and once again I remember Him.
I saw Him once, walking on gray lakes
at night when the wind grieved trees;
I hear Him speaking in still places
and called to Him … once, when He passed,
I reached out to touch Him – but the crowd was there
and then He had passed by. I think of Him
still, haunted by His green words in the night
--sought by the God within Him, but unheld;
unwilling, sped in flight from Him; alone
begging to love Him, stopped by my own self
and helpless. something binds me to the earth
that is of my own being – I am held
by my own soul from following after Him.
I seek the fireblown glory of the Spirit
-- the blood returning red, reaffirmed,
the silent god burning within the bush.
Coughing dry prayers on hollow evening winds,
left with no prayer, I pray; left with no hope
I hope for hope, to lay a snare for God,
to make him love me though I fear the love;
to make him make me need him, hating the need;
to make Him heal me though I reek of evil.
I give a wish to serve in lieu of service
because I wish to serve but cannot serve,
and wish to love though love be not within me,
honoring God in Whom I disbelieve
because I disbelieve the unbelief,
knowing no place to turn I have not turned.
This gift is left only, a mere withholding;
to seek no more, to leave it in His hand,
and wait, simply to wait, alone, to wait.
III: Pondering Return
Out of such saffron skies come stranger seas
than those which closed upon Atlantis’ grave,
for out of these Atlantis could arise
once more. I tread the surf with weary feet
awaiting changes in the earth. Is it
not time? Two score and five millennia
have come and gone awaiting this near hour,
time that has seen the holy spurned, time full
of greed-infested years, of leprous months,
of days that strike a lethargy in the bone
and bring the weary soul to seek an end.
Sound of the surf unresting, the orange sky
and west-born wind, seem none the less serene
to me; and I can feel beyond the crests
to those primordial and deep foundations
where all is still, and silent, and unmoved,
the mother’s ancient womb, inviolate
still. And if I walk into the wind,
west to the reddening line of the horizon,
will He not then receive me? Crucified Lord,
maker of paradox, does He not ever
call, and are His arms not still extended
to gather in His own ?
From red to gray,
the light has left us, but the tolling voice
of waves upon the shore says He will be
waiting. I turn, face the darkened east
and take my empty shell to empty places
to wait upon the darkness and the silence.
And out of darkness, out of silence, Light!
The Voice, so small it fills the universe
pours itself out upon me like the sea
and all the answers hover on the wind
within my reach at last – and shall I take
the Hand that offers them? Shall I receive
what He so freely offers? Is this pain
within my being only an earnest of rebirth,
the purging of a load I tried to carry
and fell beneath?
His hand is firm to lift me
And gentle is the Voice that calls my name:
“My child, I never meant for you to wander
so far from Me to shiver in the wind
of empty loneliness. I am your Harbor,
I am the Home you seek, the Rest you crave,
I am the Anchor against the restless tides
that push against your life. Seek only Me
and all I have is yours. Seek only Me,
for I am all there is or ever was.
I am the Hound of Heaven, I have followed
My own as I followed Francis, as I came
Following through uncharted centuries
every soul My Father gave to me,
and in that same persistent chase I followed you
until you too must yield.”
And so it ends,
the futile striving to evade His love.
And so it ends in silence and in peace.
The mighty One Who Is has conquered:
“Be still,” He says, “and know that I am God.”
Almost anything, from alpha to omega.
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