Poetry - October, 2012


The temple called Beautiful

—from “Adventures in Tyndale’s English New Testament

At the ninth hour of prayer
Peter and John, or “Jhon”
as he renders it, ascended
the stairs of the temple
called Beautiful, encountered
there a man halt from the womb.

The man, laid in the porch
of the temple called Beautiful,
desired alms of them about to enter,
alms to anoint the unlevel
walls and floors of the room
that was his body, wasting away.

The entering pair “fastened”
(he says) their eyes on him,
the one asking, and said
“Look on us.” And he did,
he gave heed unto them,
trusting to be their recipient

of something or other.
“Silver and gold have I none,
such as I have give I thee,”
spoke Peter, giving his right hand.
In the name of Jesu he lifted
the lame one onto his ruined feet.

The offered hand retracted,
bearing a weight unused to being
lifted, even as their fastened look
urged the man’s glance forward,
as if tethered or, better, a bungee cord
springing upward in lively retreat.

Immediately his anklebones
received strength. The recipient
was rising up, was soon risen.
He “sprang, stode, and also walked,”
or so it goes in William Tyndale’s
good glad version, robust

words like a jubilant tiding,
fresh-faced for this story.
Walking and leaping and lauding
god, he accompanied the two
in the temple, and held them, healed.
We astonished crowded the gate,

passed through the elaborate
entrance to the temple called Beautiful.
We knew him, and therefore were
all the more sorely amazed.
We followed the praising trio
deep into Solomon’s hall.


Mrs. Job

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job;
And he was essentially a blameless dude, and unarrogant,
And he was blessed with seven sons, and three daughters,
Which is a lot of children, and where, I ask politely, is the
Part of the Book of Job where we talk about Job’s spouse,
Who is conspicuously not discussed in the back and forth
With his buddies and then suddenly the Big Guy Himself
Answering out of the whirlwind and commanding old Job
To gird up his loins, which loins were undeniably vigorous
Previous to the Lord interrupting Job, and after the Maker
Finishes one of the greatest eloquent scoldings of all time,
He grants old Job another seven sons and three daughters,
Again without the slightest thanks for the astounding Mrs.
Job who suddenly has twenty count them twenty children
With no mention of her humor, or the vast hills of diapers,
Or her wit which survived kids throwing up and the sheep
Wandering off, and plagues of locusts and things like that.
A good editor, I feel, would have asked for just a glancing
Nod to the wry hero of the tale, at least acknowledgment;
Something like a new last line after So Job died, being old
and full of days, which might read, And also passed a most
Amazing woman, of whom nothing other than the blessing
Was ever said, her heart being a gift beyond calculation by
Man, her mind sharp, her tongue gentle, her hands a mercy,
And her very presence full reason to kneel in prayer at that
Which the Lord in His mercy has made and granted briefly.
A line like that would only hint at her, but it’s a start, right?


The butterfly doesn’t know where she is in her thousand-mile migration

When the monarch can finally trust herself
to look, she sees nothing but bright motion
down there, a billiant heave, spinning shelf
on spinning shelf, the tons of pouring ocean.

And one island. She plummets down to calm
on dune grass, her stomach filled with a bright mob
of eggs, her wings a brilliant stab at finding them
(please God) someplace to hatch, her brain a-throb

with greedy hope. But oh, the sky’s a rile
of wind against her, yowling and enraged.
If she could pray, she’d say—clinging, clinging—

I’m tired, God. You watch the world awhile.
She sleeps, while the sun, stuck in the ribcage
of a bare tree, mutters, Spring, spring.


In the vernacular gallery

Country Preacher 1860­/90, white pine, Art Institute of Chicago

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.