The Sounds Around Me

The sounds of hurricane preparation are…

circular saws,

hammers and nail guns,

Coast Guard helicopters,

Air Force airplanes,

kids playing in the street,

neighbors who hardly know each other talking,

a prayer whispered under one’s breath,

and a gentle, almost playful breeze.

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Poetry–Longing for the Sea

Note: It has been over four months since I have posted any poetry, original or otherwise. I hope to get back to this practice, as poetry, no doubt, is good for the soul.

Sea Longing

A thousand miles beyond this sun-steeped wall
Somewhere the waves creep cool along the sand,
The ebbing tide forsakes the listless land
With the old murmur, long and musical;
The windy waves mount up and curve and fall,
And round the rocks the foam blows up like snow —
Tho’ I am inland far, I hear and know.,
For I was born the sea’s eternal thrall.
I would there I were there and over me
The cold insistence of the tide would roll,
Quenching this burning thing men call the soul, —
Then with the ebbing I should drift and be
Less than the smallest shell along the shoal,
Less than the seagulls calling to the sea.

— Sara Teasdale

Ah, is there any doubt what is on my mind today? A few short weeks until vacation finds my feet planted, barefoot, in the warm sand again.

Poetry-Writing

I just want to pick up my pen and write,
Not to take notes, doodle, or draw;
Not to write an earth-shattering tome or speech to change the world;
Not to parse verbs, diagram sentences, or translate Greek.

I just want to write…

To feel the weight of the pen in my hand,
To see the ink flow from nib to paper,
To marvel at this ancient, gravity-fed machine,
To watch pen caress paper in the dance that is writing.

Smoothly, gently-ink flowing as a river of blue,
Across and down the page as I write;
Elegant normalcy, beautiful unremarkability,
Sublime typicality…pen and ink.

Poetry-Some Children See Him


This morning on the way to work I was listening to James Taylor at Christmas and was taken aback by the words to a song I have heard countless times but never really listened to. While song lyrics aren’t often read as poetry (at least by the masses), these lyrics are indeed poetry in the truest sense:

Some children see Him lily white,
The baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
With tresses soft and fair.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav’n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see Him almond-eyed,
With skin of golden hue.

Some children see Him dark as they,
Sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
And, oh . . . they love Him, too

The children in each different place
Will see the baby Jesus’ face
Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
And filled with holy light.

O lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
‘Tis love that’s born tonight!

As I read these words two thoughts come to mind. Negatively, we tend to make God in our own ‘image and likeness’ instead of remembering that we are made in his. Positively, though Christ took on humanity as an ethnic Jew some 2000 years ago, he is the God of all nations, tribes, tongues…and colors.

Poetry-Nativity

In the midst of Advent with Christmas quickly approaching, my thoughts (even in poetry) are turning to the Nativity. Perhaps one of the best poetic descriptions of the blessed event, in the English language anyway, came from the pen of John Donne. He was not only a great English poet but also an Anglican priest who wrote his Holy Sonnets in the early 1600s. Here is his sonnet on the nativity:

Nativitie

Immensitie cloysterd in thy deare wombe,
Now leaves his welbelov’d imprisonment,
There he hath made himselfe to his intent
Weake enough, now into our world to come;
But Oh, for thee, for him, hath th’Inne no roome?
Yet lay him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Starres, and wisemen will travell to prevent
Th’effect of Herods jealous generall doome;
Seest thou, my Soule, with thy faiths eyes, how he
Which fils all place, yet none holds him, doth lye?
Was not his pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pittied by thee?
Kisse him, and with him into Egypt goe,
With his kinde mother, who partakes thy woe.

We could surely unpack the rich theological truths proclaimed here…but that is best left for another day.

The World Needs Poets…

“The world needs poets!” That may be construed as a bold assertion by some, a statement of the obvious by others, or an irrelevant waste of words by still others. I stand by my words; however, because among all humanity, it is the poets who truly communicate. Let me elaborate:

  • Engineers must crunch numbers, but it is the poet’s words in the briefing that delicately present the findings…
  • Politicians must write laws, but it is the poet’s words in the courtroom that convince the jury…
  • Educators must teach the facts, but is the poet’s words in the mnemonic that children remember years later…
  • Generals must create war plans, but it is the poet’s words in the trenches that inspire men to die…
  • Theologians must parse verbs, but it is the poet’s words in sermon and song that remain in parishioners ears…

Academics typically snub their noses at poets.

Can one imagine a poetry blog at Southern Seminary, where I attended? Too flaky for prim and proper scholars…even Baptists, especially Calvinists. That’s too bad, because hearers are much more likely on Monday to remember the words to yesterday’s hymns than the intricate explanation of the nuances of the second aorist passive tense in Greek.

Can one perchance find a poetry reading group at NASA, where I work? Not on your life! Again it’s unfortunate because the American people might really get into the adventure of space exploration if presented to us in something other than jargon-filled, engineering prose.

In other words, we must encourage the poets among us and nurture the poet within us. This is necessary in all aspects of life but especially in the real of our faith. To quote J.D. Walt of the Asbury Seminary poetry blog:

Poets must be encouraged for with a mere handful of words they subvert the world order. Is it any wonder our poets are the most dangerous liaisons of the Kingdom? Poets take words to their highest power. Like chemists experimenting in the lab, poets combine words into combusting compositions. Theologians laboriously wrestle with words to describe, define and delineate the qualities and character of God. Poets train words to dance in the declaration of God’s glory. They craft cathedrals with words. And when poems burst into song the world joins the dance.

Yes! Exactly! He gets it! The ‘most dangerous liasons of the Kingdom,’ precisely because they capture the imagination and fan into flames the passion of the human heart…all of which is possible with theological precision and correctness, I might add. And so, I will begin to take a weekly break from my usual prose and post some creative verse–some original and some borrowed / some classic and some contemporary…all to inspire and enjoy, and we’ll see where it takes us!