She was still swaying as the last honey-laden tunes Of sweet summer faded away like fragile baby’s breath— Her eyes were closed, a shawl lightly over shoulders Under the net of stars that had become a shroud As one by one they died silent into the pale light Of a clouded dawn, and all the guests had gone In a whispered goodbye, like the twinkle in his eye.
But the womb still has its memory as does the heart— Heart over heart, head over head, eight months bodied Though autumn breezes steal him away like a changeling, Like a changeling into winter’s overcoat to fleeting summer’s loss— I will not speak of spring, she said, breathing gusts of prayer Aware at last of the chillness in the air, but of tombs, oh LORD, empty Oh, my God, in that long-expectant day, birthing him to eternity, holy.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NIV) Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
“Without hope we live on in desire.” Sanza speme vivemo in disio.
Dante, Inferno, Canto IV, line 42
Love ran through his island heart From springes freed took flight Left swallows’ cries of yesteryears Desire-torn in apple-bright
Bone-white his wings that beat the air And strain bent low his neck Wind beat hard his sinews bare Yet Hope grew clear his sight
Quiet-warmed as kingly deer by brook Calm shattered shivers of doubt Drawn unseen through cloud and dark Dew-quenched his thirsting heart
Love and Hope together sang He heard their various strain Not far the wing-breadths that remained To reach the One he loved.
“That without hope we live on in desire” The pagan poet found But pity more each one whose fire Burns for themselves alone.
Before Canto 4 of the Inferno where the pilgrim Dante is introduced to the virtuous pagans among whom is his guide through Hell, the poet Virgil himself, Dante first crosses the gate of Hell whereon he sees inscribed, “Abandon hope all who enter here” (Canto 3). Here, he sees the first sinners in Hell, a craven company who lived for themselves, filled with envious desires, whom Virgil describes as “the sorry souls of those who lived without infamy or praise. They are mingled with that base band of angels who were neither rebellious nor faithful to God, but stood apart.” Being disengaged from the battle, this endless line of souls have no hope of death’s oblivion, “mercy and justice disdain them. Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on” (trans. Charles S. Singleton). Virgil won’t even name them for they have reduced reality, reduced the world to a show, a spectacle for their own amusement. These rage and wail as swarms of stinging wasps and flies follow them and worms engorge on their blood. In contrast the virtuous pre-Christian pagans whom Dante meets next in Limbo live in a bucolic garden, their great sadness, desiring yet remaining apart from God.
“What is all this love for if we have to walk into the dark?” (M.R. James)
This is no country for old women Scavenging among the shops of younger Birds feathered-fit for triumphalist high-fives Impatient of scarecrow’s creaking shoes, masked Grimace reaching for a tin on a grocer’s shelf.
Pain exacts through sickness and age Its own price, even as we gingerly kneel To find the lisolia of those now lost to sight, Praying hands held aloft, clasping light In the aftergloom of laughter’s ghosts.
In the heartmoor of these days and nights Visions appear, and I press forward into the dark Of words that like crumbs from the children’s table Fall upon me, as manna, as showers, as stories Of love that even scarecrows can laugh to tell.
Linda at dVerse asks us to choose one or more words from a list of neologisms to write a poem. Click on Mr. Linky and join in! I've chosen "heartmoor," "aftergloom" and "lisolia," definitions of which are given in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:
Aftergloom: the pang of loneliness you feel the day after an intensely social event, as the glow of voices and laughter fades into a somber quiet.
Heartmoor: the primal longing for a home village to return to, a place that no longer exists, if it ever did.
Lisolia: the satisfaction of things worn down by time, broken in baseball mitts, the shiny snout of a lucky bronze pig, or footprints ground deep into floorboards by generations of kneeling monks.
It was coiled and glowing in a single ray of light, speaking of treasure maps
and I am there when she gives it to you, the thin gold filigree weaving delicate
through coral one after another, jostling into the tender skin of your palm
cupped like a boat that had sailed too far to be retrieved by a golden hook
that cut into the bark of heart and home but landed somewhere between reality
and the wound that never heals: “I’m leaving it with you,” I hear her say
to you. And you look at it like the sum of all mysteries and said to her, to me,
“Where will you go? Can’t you stay?” and I said, she said, “It’s no more use to me,
maybe for you,” and you tore the coral off your neck and your hands bled for a season
and a day, until you drew its poison out of your body and praised the Light that stayed.
Image credit: Amrita Sher-Gil, "The Little Girl in Blue" (detail; 1934).
Merril at dVerse asks us to "write about a historical artifact…You may write about any object—a family heirloom, a museum piece, a monument, or a palace. The choice is yours, but there must be some link to history and the past. You can write in any form or free verse."
Aristotle wrote that women are incomplete men. I was raised on this with my mother’s milk. What is a girl when your firstborn could have been a boy. In my mother’s eyes, shame. In my father’s, disappointment, shame. Flawless would be a boy. Flawed would be me.
Christmas with a baby at the center just turned up the drollery of fate. Each year’s gift whispered, “Be a man. Someone notable. Do that for us and we will love you.” How unkind to have only a girl child to celebrate the birth of a King!
What child is this? Daddy asks. Mummy echoes, What child is this?
I ask, Dear God, What Child is this?
“What Child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping?”1
Now Christmas comes to a woman whose hair is thinning, whose hands and feet are deformed with disease, whose gait is slow, whose back is bent. Not under the weight of shame. She sees the One in the manger born and wonders that Love came down into the muck of a world where children cry themselves to sleep and no one hears or cares. Jesus, You came a long way. And so did I with You.
This, this One died lonely tree-hung to save a girl child from pitiless hands
Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1What Child Is This?
What child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping, Whom angels greet with anthems sweet While shepherds watch are keeping?
(Refrain)This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing; Haste, haste to bring Him laud, The babe, the son of Mary!
Why lies He in such mean estate Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear: for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, The Cross be borne for me, for you; Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh, The babe, the son of Mary!
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh; Come, peasant, king, to own Him! The King of Kings salvation brings; Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
Raise, raise the song on high! The virgin sings her lullaby. Joy! joy! for Christ is born, The babe, the son of Mary!
William Chatterton Dix, “What Child Is This?” (1865)
Donna's Go Dog Go Cafe’s Inaugural Haibun Wednesday
Eugi's Weekly Prompt: "notable"
Maisie gazes up at the light-catcher’s abode. She had tracked him down to this narrow street months ago, carefully observing his habits.
She still wonders why he’s here, when the comfortable far-palaces of Glinoraram are his for the asking, this youngest son of the king.
She was sent to bring him back, by force if necessary. Instead she finds herself discreetly helping him as Abaddon’s1 darkness grows heavier.
The dwellers on this dismal street need every light-scrap the light-catcher can find to give.
Emerging from his eyrie, his keen eyes meet hers knowingly. Did he know she loved him?
1The Hebrew term Abaddon (Hebrew: אֲבַדּוֹן Avaddon, meaning “destruction”, “doom”), and its Greek equivalent Apollyon (Koinē Greek: Ἀπολλύων, Apollúōn meaning “Destroyer”) appear in the Bible as both a place of destruction and an archangel of the abyss. In the Hebrew Bible, abaddon is used with reference to a bottomless pit, often appearing alongside the place Sheol (שְׁאוֹל Šəʾōl), meaning the realm of the dead.
In the Book of Revelation of the New Testament, an angel called Abaddon is described as the king of an army of locusts; his name is first transcribed in Koine Greek (Revelation 9:11—”whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon,”) as Ἀβαδδών, and then translated Ἀπολλύων, Apollyon. The Vulgate and the Douay–Rheims Bible have additional notes not present in the Greek text, “in Latin Exterminans”, exterminans being the Latin word for “destroyer”.
From childhood I’ve led a nomadic life, then thankfully settled down for a while after my marriage; but due to varied pressures over the last dozen years or so, we found ourselves moving not once, not twice, but four times!
Let slip the dogs of war, cry ‘Havoc!’1 My life is in boxes. Taped wounds reopen. Something’s lost, new scars of the march Mark rosewood and disquiet heart, Chipping tall glasses into which descanted Expectations contain shards. I swallow
To survive. Patience. There is no end to it. Nothing is ever put away in just the right place As it was before, or ever after. A life’s exhumations, Dislocated. Some funerary remains stay buried mysteries, Supernumerary or symptoms of malaise. Diagnosis: Lassitude. The patient’s surgical cut unanesthetized
Comes at Christmas, when more than one treasured Ornament is missed, or smashed, glitter powder, a crack On Nutcracker chin. His stout smile now on my face. Shrugging away another casualty. The clock chimes. There are cookies in the oven in the new-not-new
Kitchen where cups and saucers rotate from shelf To shelf to find a home. The doorbell rings. I prepare my bravado. Hopeful eyes meet mine, A Christmas tree on slim shoulders, angelic annunciation To their father’s bemused smile. Now a certain
Cavalcade of the heart, benediction of wise men’s gold Escaping boxes, escaping from what was To what is. Another Egypt. Another promised land. Father Abraham. Mother Sarah. Tents folded Unfolded. Tinsel time like tinsel tears shimmer past. Frankincense and myrrh. My life by blood covenant, Thine.
1“The military order ‘Havoc!’ was a signal given to the English military forces in the Middle Ages to direct the soldiery (in Shakespeare’s parlance ‘the dogs of war’) to pillage and chaos. The ‘let slip’ is an allusion to the slip collars that were used to restrain dogs and were easily ‘let slip’ to allow the dogs to run and hunt.”
Image credit: Michael Whelan, "Lights," acrylic on watercolor board, 1991
I'm guest-hosting today at dVerse "Poetics: Epiphany in the Time of Holiday," where we will write on what an epiphany during this holiday season would look like for us (or someone we know or imagine). An epiphany, writes critic X. J. Kennedy, is 'some moment of insight, discovery, or revelation by which a character’s life, or view of life, is greatly altered.' Epiphany is from the Greek, epiphainein, “to show forth.” (James Joyce, for example, describes epiphanies in everyday life, using stream-of-consciousness in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” mixing memories, associations, moral/ideological/religious issues.) Click on Mr. Linky and join in!
In the year 912, Notker the Stammerer, a monk of the Abbey of Saint Gall, is said to have written what became the Gregorian chant below, the English translation of which is a poetic adaption from the Book of Common Prayer (1549).
Media vita in morte sumus quem quaerimus adjutorem nisi te, Domine, qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris?
Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors Salvator: amarae morti ne tradas nos.
In the midst of life we are in death of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?
O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
2 Samuel 14:14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.
Image for Cee's Flower of the Day (FOTD), November 15, 2021
Linda at dVerse: Quadrille#140 asks us to use some form of the word "fair"
in a poem of exactly 44 words. Click Mr. Linky and join in!
“Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) “But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’” (Matt. 15:25)
Two women: Queen Esther. The Canaanite/Syrophoenician woman.
One was a Jewish concubine in a Persian king’s harem. The other was a Gentile kneeling before the Messiah.
Both women were pleading for the lives of people they loved, one for the Jews in the Persian Empire, the other for her daughter possessed by an unclean spirit.
One pleaded for community. The other for family.
One came before an earthly king. The other before the Kings of kings.
Both came trusting in a God who “had prepared a table before them” in the presence of their enemies, came in the power of His Shepherding grace and love through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23)
They came as sheep before their Shepherd, believing in His power to rescue and save.
Two women. Two needs.
Having prayed to the sovereign God, Esther came before the earthly king knowing the fate of the Jews in the land was in the hand of God, as was her fate: “If I perish, I perish.”
Having heard of Jesus, the Canaanite woman came before the Jewish Messiah, knowing He was Lord and her daughter’s fate was in His hand: “Lord, help me.”
They were tried. Haman worked actively against all that Esther would do.
They were tested. The Canaanite woman was asked the reason for her hope.
In both cases, God worked behind the scenes, though in the book of Esther He is never mentioned, not once. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus seemed to be indifferent to the Canaanite woman’s plight, though in her heart He had already laid the groundwork that made her bold and persistent.
They knew what God could do. They didn’t know what God would do.
“Let my life be granted for my wish, and my people for my request.” (Esther 7:3) “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28)
They hadn’t known what God would do, but they knew who He was: He was a God who cared enough to listen.
Two women who had no rights but what were granted as crumbs in the society in which they lived, went away as daughters of the living God, granted more than crumbs, granted their heart’s desire.
A community of Jews was saved. A daughter released from demonic possession.
A tale of two women alone? No. The story is really about God, and how his daughters (and sons) are never alone.
Pray now, and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Isaiah 49:15-16 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Luke 12:27)
There is no nonsense about them These increments of light Sun-warmed stalks and petals, Reducing to ornate shabbiness, palaces and temples, Gaudy shacks of industry, mirrors of acquisition While these Easter-birthed seeds burst otherworldly All-gathering the vindicating Light The Being uncanny borne by fragile forms, mortal all, Sometimes dowdy, bent, dreary, Sometimes bold, speckled, flashy, Zealous, winsome, or hard-pressed Between cracks of broken pavements Yet there all the same: Seven thousands of unbowed knees Introduced by design, awakened, sent out As an offense to be discarded or tolerated, Eliciting smile, laughter, scorn, booted heel, These refugees offering refuge immortal These exiles rushing homeward This desire of sun: These lilies of the field.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. (Psalm 26:3)
[And the LORD said to Elijah:] “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18)
I know this music, she said, her bow singing across the riggings of the ship, vibrations of string, quivering, a Stradivarius on seascapes wild, Colmcille’s blessing on her lips. Her petaled fingers close on each note, wind-whipped, prayer stinging her eyes, cutting grooves calloused by play, tonal cry of pregnant labor for a birth where words and sounds attuned once only to elemental spirits, now midwife new life, the dead burying the dead, but the people of the Way hearing, come dancing.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Luke 9:60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Image Credit: cocoparisienne from Pixabay
Ingrid at dVerse: Poetics Tuesday asks us to "write a poem using only concrete nouns, subject matter and imagery." Click on Mr. Linky and join in!
An inch the moon moved, me eyeing through sleepless lids I lay dying: apple-fed.
Dim my sight, breath weakening death’s poison ever strengthening: apple-cursed.
Whispered prayers, hurried words of flesh plead soul’s deliverance afresh: apple-damned.
Darkness now floods the mind distraught I would, I could, but I cannot: apple-bent.
God’s Son whose flesh my guilt impaled On cross for me o’er death prevailed: apple-freed.
Grace at dVerse challenges us today to write a Compound Word Verse, an unfamiliar form to most ous I daresay. She writes: "The Compound Word Verse is a poetry form invented by Margaret R. Smith that consists of five 3-line stanzas, for a total of 15 lines. The last line of each stanza ends in a compound word and these compound words share a common stem word which is taken from the title. (In the first example below the stem word is “moon” from the title “Moonlighting”; the compound words related to the title are moondust, moonbeams, moonsongs, etc.)
The Compound Word Verse (3 lines) has a set rhyme scheme and meter as follows:
Rhyme Scheme: a,a,b
Syllable/Meter: 8, 8, 3
Click on Mr. Linky to read more and join in!
Gladsome we, though our end be to your eye decaying fury our first blooms a surprising mystery: purple-centered flaming glory darkening to what you didn’t foresee autumn’s legion embers a dreary inventory.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Cee's Flower of the Day (FOTD) October 17, 2021:
check out her incredible photography.
Sammi's Weekend Writing Prompt #231 - "Legion"
write prose or poetry in 32 words using the above word.
I watched you go, the empty sleeve of your coat brushing my cheek long before the final goodbye
on riddling ground east of Eden, west of the moon, where dead roam among the living as infernal winds sweep through like furies spitting over our destinies
in the wasteland where visions die where banshees howl, half-formed men bay round fires of Cain’s wandering offspring; yet the eternal revelation, tri-folded, goes forth to the hungry and the poor in spirit
on ground riddled with the treacherous dust of history, walking as quickened ones, lilies of the field, dandelions harboring the unsearchable riches of Christ showing forth the unassailable purpose of God
as dumb to the world’s riddles, we carry on, spinning out of bereft arms into shrouds or across canyons of a diseased mind losing each other to time’s grasp, till time stops, and we, with joy unspeakable, walk on new ground.
Ingrid at dVerse's "Poetics: From a place of pain" asks us to "try your hand at writing your way out of a place of pain" which I have done combining fragments of poems from the past. Join us by clicking on Mr. Linky.
Jesus said:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I’d been talking with her on the phone for quite a while. Now I had come to the end of myself, not simply physically weary, but spiritually. She was still anxious, overwrought, doubtful of her salvation, overrun with the voice of the Accuser undercutting the gospel she had known and believed for most of her life. Painful circumstances had brought her to the end of her rope. And I was at the end of mine, spiritual weapons blunted and defeat looming.
I was, in effect, poor in spirit. Impoverished, like the woman who said to Elisha: “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil” (2 Kings 4:2). Destitute.
But Jesus had said this was a characteristic of those in the kingdom. So I was good, right?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 3)
Blessed/Happy: μακάριος “makarios” mak-ar’-ee-os (Gk.) – “blessed,” “happy,” “possessed of peace (shalom), well-being” — in the Amplified Bible: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions”
This is the very first beatitude, a statement of blessing. Jesus’ eight beatitudes are the dramatic opening to his teaching in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. The beatitudes are the tour de force of the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, consummate prophet, priest, king, knows how to grab the attention of his listeners by describing the happy, fulfilled life, the desire of every human being. He describes “the makarios life,” that is, the “blessed/happy life,” of those who follow Him. This life is available to every believer. The kingdom of heaven had already come with His appearance, even as it will come fully on the day He returns. As believers, we are citizens in His kingdom, and as kingdom-dwellers, we should possess all the qualities that the beatitudes describe.
The makarios life is the life of someone described in Psalm 11, and in Christ Jesus, we possess its qualities. So, as Jesus says, happy are we! And this first beatitude gives the foundational characteristic that leads to all the other attributes listed of the blessed life. Living the makarios life means we are first and foremost “poor in spirit.”
Well, I was certainly feeling my spiritual poverty on the phone with my desperately anxious friend.So why didn’t I feel blessed?
Simple. The kingdom of God is not a matter of feeling. It is knowing and believing and trusting that God’s word and promises are true. It is a matter of taking with both hands God’s revealed truth and turning around continually to Him, looking to Him, and relying on Him to provide for all that we need to apply that truth in our lives and our relationships. That is kingdom-living. That is happiness-producing. That is blessedness. That is the makarios life!
So I acknowledge my spiritual lack and gather the riches of the kingdom in Christ Jesus. And I give my friend what Christ gives me: His love.
Do you remember the song we grew up with as children, the one we taught our children? I ask her. We used to sing “Jesus Loves Me”?
Yes, she says.
Can we sing it together?
Jesus . . . loves . . . .
Her voice fades pitifully. I can feel her anguish, hear her cries of panic and uncertainty, powerless to hope, powerless to believe. She can’t bring herself to say “me.” Jesus loves ME.
She hardly has the breath to sing through her cries, so I sing it for the most part alone. She is silent while I sing. Listening. Then I ask her:
Can you, dear one, say “Jesus loves me”?
Patiently we repeat the words of the song. Simple words. Words at the heart of the gospel.
She stumbles many times, as if in unbelief at the immensity of the statement, that Jesus could love her, even her.
Yes, I remind her, Yes! Jesus loves you. Yes! Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones — us, you and me – to Him belong. You are weak and I am weak but He is strong. Say it, dear one: say, “Jesus loves me.”
And when at last she does say it, substituting her name for the “me,” it is as if another gate of hell had been broken through, and the Accuser driven back in defeat.
It is a moment of great victory. You see, the kingdom of God is ours, the poor in spirit, in the person of Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself on the cross for us. And He gives us the kingdom He won for us.
I am weak but He is strong. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Sister! Brother! Preach it to yourself, to each other. We are living the makarios life. Hallelujah!
1Psalm 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.