I am the one who has not rejoiced, always, and again I will say, is not rejoicing.
Hardly ever my gentleness is known, even to me, and not, certainly, to my children. Strangers report to have seen it on Tuesday in the library. I do not confirm this sighting.
But I have catalogued my every worry about everything, my requests made known in the sharp, carping voice on my blog. By supplication and prayer I claim to have been deserted. I say it again, deserted, justly.
And still, some Spirit stays near, alert for the stingiest rejoicing, key ready in his unclenched hand. Unlock, Heart-Guard, my chest’s dark vessel. Empty me of treasured loss. And again, I say, make it emptier, until, for rejoicing, a space larger enough to echo appears.
Hanging quilt and the gazes of the carved half-dozen prows of ships and this preacher, upright and upholding the opened and planed smooth Word of God in his lap, he fixes his hollowed eyes past the book, on a particular point of sight, devotional turn for the wooden minds in his care. Or recollects a work song from before the war and feels its hum in his brow and high cheeks that betray the grain of southern white pine, deep gouges of chisel and time. I am praying to him now, that the split in his spine will hold. That like his arms blessed tight to his trunk, he will keep his own counsel until the Spirit fires him alive as the free hand and eye of the vernacular maker whose sermon he is.
And conjectures, and offers a few ways to take down the body, the God who carries a taste for blood. On the altar, before him, an empty simple cross, and a purple bouquet, one of which, he doesn’t say, was arranged, and one which happened, he knows, against serious, best judgment—
the way you might extend a hand to an enemy, suspecting the risk, knowing better but offering and retracting your bared palm over time like a bud or a bloom opening to a violet spring sky.
Support the Christian Century
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.