Poetry Articles from Christian Century http://www.christiancentury.org/section/55/feed en The farm wife repeats a lullaby http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/farm-wife-repeats-lullaby <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>When Ruth cries out, terrified<br />by what stalks the root cellar<br />or chases her toward a cliff,<br />we sing our favorite chorus:<br /><br /><em>Vegetables grow in my garden,</em><br /><em>God sends the rain,</em><br /><em>Vegetables grow in my garden,</em><br /><em>God sends the sun.</em><br /><br />With each verse, we substitute<br />something new: <em>carrots, potatoes,</em><br /><em>rutabagas, coconuts</em>. Like sheep<br />that leap a fence, we never stop<br /><br />to reconsider: <em>sunflowers,</em><br /><em>snapdragons, poinsettia, burr</em><br /><em>thistle. Rabbits</em> wriggle in<br />and soon the gate swings open<br /><br />for <em>rhinoceros</em> and <em>pythons</em> . . .<br />till we make room for everything<br />under the sun, under the rain,<br />in the garden<br /><br />where Ruth can fall asleep.</p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Shari Wagner 28696 at http://www.christiancentury.org The Feast of All Souls http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/feast-all-souls <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>The dead visited this morning: sisters,<br />parents, aunts and uncles, old professors<br />and friends—faces so vivid they again<br />appeared in my room through memory’s lens.<br /><br />Did families stage a yard sale later<br />in the Catholic cemetery on Common,<br />a table set up in the center, orange water<br />cooler in view? But I am mistaken.<br /><br />It’s All Souls Day when people assemble<br />to clean the crumbling graves and to honor<br />their dead, whose remnant bones sometimes tumble<br />from ancient crypts, although their souls have soared<br /><br />like skeins of starlings, whose sudden flight<br />in sunlight dyes wings a shimmer of white.</p> </div> </div> </div> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Stella Nesanovich 28591 at http://www.christiancentury.org Adapting in Ethiopia http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/adapting-ethiopia <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>They warned us, like innocents, not to name<br />our goat, to exercise good sense, refuse<br />to see him as a pet or even, <em>oops</em>,<br />as <em>him</em>. Just do whatever all it takes to tame<br />the thing toward that appointed time when goat<br />and fate should meet, when the dull drawn blade<br />would withdraw blood from funny, fuzzy throat.<br /><br />For days or weeks, we avoided eyes, made<br />it a point to see the animal as meat.<br />Through open window, so relieved, I heard<br />you say to our neighbor, “No, you do it.”<br /><br />And kindly, our neighbor did—spared you,<br />and me too. But I will never forgive<br />myself the rare deliciousness of the stew.</p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Mary M. Brown 28572 at http://www.christiancentury.org Blind faith http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/blind-faith <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>Even after years living with the blind,<br />guide dogs continue gazing into the dead fish<br />of their owner’s eyes. The dogs are not stupid.<br />They simply see what eyes can’t see<br />behind the bloodless husk of facts.<br />And soon enough, their guileless trust<br />awakens something in the blind:<br />not sight, exactly, but the cognizance<br />that they are seen—which is another kind<br />of seeing—call it faith, blind faith.</p> </div> </div> </div> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Richard Schiffman 28579 at http://www.christiancentury.org Drought http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/drought <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>The laurel sweeps its lower limbs<br />all the way down the rock<br />and into the creek that wasn’t there<br />till last week’s rainstorm.<br /><br />If leaves could speak—<br />and they do, in their everlasting fragrance—<br />they would welcome the sound of water<br />traveling over sandstone.<br /><br />The leaves would say,<br /><em>We missed you—for almost a year,</em><br /><em>you were gone. Please stay this time.</em><br />And the water would say, <em>Maybe. See ya.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Paul Willis 28434 at http://www.christiancentury.org Sunday morning http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/sunday-morning <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>Standing at the window,<br />I let fall a book of American sermons<br /><br />when I see my neighbor<br />washing his Honda in the June sunshine<br /><br />and across the street,<br />an old woman catechizing her roses.<br /><br />On the radio<br />a disk jockey affirms his faith in Virgin Records,<br /><br />though he himself is a separatist<br />who mostly worships at independent shrines.<br /><br />I switch stations to hear<br />a scholar trying to describe the color purple:<br /><br />it cannot be done, he finally admits,<br />though he calls it the existential center.<br /><br />Carrying flatbread and coffee,<br />I abandon the house<br /><br />for the sidewalk, where a block away<br />two kids are playing with a garden sprinkler.<br /><br />They dance in rainbows,<br />free, it seems, of all catastrophe.</p> </div> </div> </div> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Mark Jones 28235 at http://www.christiancentury.org Book of Kells http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/book-kells <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>The text of the day is open to Luke, chapter sixteen,<br />verse ten. The initial N, made up of blond men<br /><br />facing off, grappling and tugging at each other’s beards,<br />becomes the first word in the section that warns us<br /><br />that no servant can serve two masters. Irony intended.<br />Later, in beautiful insular majuscule, the open letters filled<br /><br />in red and blue, we read <em>You cannot serve both god and money</em>.<br />I wish that these words would rise off the page, a swarm of bees,<br /><br />become honey to spread on our daily bread. When the scribes<br />made an error, in a world before white-out, the correct word<br /><br />was inserted in a box of red dots. Aren’t there words today<br />we’d like to amend like that? In this dimly lit room, circling<br /><br />glass cases, I return to view the same vellum over again,<br />Twelve hundred years later, clear as the day it was written,<br /><br />I think of Henri Nouwen: <em>The word is born in silence,</em><br /><em>and silence is the deepest response to the word</em>.</p> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Barbara Crooker 28249 at http://www.christiancentury.org Common elegance http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/common-elegance <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>Kneeling,<br />he turned the fish by their tails<br />on the iron grate; their skins<br /><br />sticking and burning.<br />The fire died once<br />and he bent and blew<br /><br />on the embers, holding<br />his robe at the throat,<br />a gesture of such common elegance<br /><br />the gates flew open.<br />A ribbon of dawn<br />lay taut and pink on the sea.<br /><br />When at last he raised his head<br />and looked at me, I shivered.<br /><em>Simon, son of John, do you love me?</em></p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Samuel Harrison 28299 at http://www.christiancentury.org Creation http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/creation-0 <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>Obvious of course, now and in the beginning:<br />God is not a perfectionist.&nbsp;&nbsp; Good at detail for sure,<br />and drama, but lacking the<br />compulsion to get every piece of<br />punctuation in its proper place,&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ever.<br />And forever forgetting the finishing touches:<br />a proper frame, that final proofreading.<br /><br />Tempting to be critical of such sloppiness,<br />all those excesses and omissions.&nbsp;&nbsp; For instance,<br />surely there is too much sadness to go around,<br />more than what’s necessary for lessons and poetry.<br /><br />But I don’t mean there is no serious business here.<br />Only that there is something else on the canvas,<br />an art in line and color, a splash of mystery,<br />a priority of passion perhaps,<br />well beyond the right answer and its rush of applause,<br />something still seeping into our soil.</p> </div> </div> </div> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Janeal Turnbull Ravndal 28232 at http://www.christiancentury.org Bloodline http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/bloodline <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p style="text-align: center;">Consider its extravagant fertility! How<br />dependably it breeds itself in the marrow<br />to fill again what drains away, the rivers of bright<br />platelets singing in their arterial dark<br /><br />until a simple incursion, some sharp sever.<br />A jag. An abrupt disclosure as our secret fluid<br />spills against its will—whether a startle or a slow<br />seepage, a prompt to remember our fragility.<br /><br />When a bold splash on a lintel in Egypt signaled<br />safety, a lifeguard against the death angel, we didn’t<br />have to die; it was only a lamb, and a quick throat cut<br />that flooded us into another life.<br /><br />“His blood be upon us” echoes in that old yell of<br />rejection. We can yield instead to be<br />washed in grace, the scandal of mercy<br />acting as God’s unlikely laundry.<br /><br />Today the cup calls us to the altar rail, transfuses us<br />as we drink deep, a stain that blots old grimes<br />and dyes us with itself.</p> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Luci Shaw 28119 at http://www.christiancentury.org In the alley http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/alley <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>Here’s a story. My first job, at fifteen, was in a bakery,<br />Cleaning the vast foul pots and kettles and baking pans<br />At night, for hours, alone, with horrifying chemicals, &amp;<br />Finally locking the shop and trudging home in the dark.<br />I hated it from the first hour but I couldn’t quit instantly<br />Because I was afraid to be teased and be mortified. This<br />Went on a week. The back door to the bakery was in an<br />Alley that looked like a good place to get shot. One day<br />As I shuffled sadly down the alley I saw a slumped man<br />Sitting by the back door, smoking. I didn’t know him &amp;<br />Figured I was about to get rolled. I was sort of relieved,<br />To be honest, because then I’d have a decent excuse for<br />Quitting. But when I got there the man stood up, and he<br />Said boy, I run the shop next door, and I see you in here<br />Working, and I bet you have not eaten, and that’s awful<br />Hard work, I know how that guy leaves his kitchenware,<br />So here’s a sandwich. Now, it’s not from <em>me</em> exactly but<br />From my wife who has a real sharp eye. So there you go.<br />I quit a few days later, and at my dad’s instruction I quit<br />Face to face with the baker, who was furious, and it was<br />No fun at all, but then I went and said thanks to the lady.<br />Even now sometimes I see that man smoking in the alley,<br />And standing up, and being kind to a kid he didn’t know.<br />Even now I’ll be walking along and suddenly there he is,<br />Waiting to be kind. We think we are alone but we aren’t.</p> </div> </div> </div> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Brian Doyle 28132 at http://www.christiancentury.org First petitions http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/first-petitions <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>That there will be one or two waiting<br />with hands to hold you through floods<br />of crowds and reaching for you in rivers<br />of sports fans rushing past your head;<br /><br />to lay on blessings of evening explorations,<br />fidget through long hours awaiting<br />the door latch and the fridge slam you<br />tucked into a familiar corner at home;<br /><br />to give up reaching and fall at the bedside,<br />fold and submit you and your youth<br />beyond the touch of helping hands<br />to a kinder embrace, not here but not far.</p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Jeff Johnson 27973 at http://www.christiancentury.org Church yard: Rebuilding the labyrinth http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/church-yard-rebuilding-labyrinth <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>A curving trail—the callused field obscures it<br />until we shovel out the clotted brick,<br />lug a ton or two of sand to fit<br />trenches, level rumpled earth, correct<br />courses. A mallet stuns a thumb, new blisters<br />bud as self-impressed we shout, “This row<br />is done!” but then a kid names names, prefers<br />George Toad, Kate Cricket, slaps William Mosquito,<br />pats Barkly, unleashed, our best company.<br />We rest and share cold drinks. David brings<br />homemade muffins, burned, blueberry plenty.<br />Sun flickers around us, summer’s wings.<br />Yet sand, we need more sand! Deer watch from trees<br />while we adjust the pathways on our knees.</p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Elizabeth Rivers 27844 at http://www.christiancentury.org Losing sight http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/losing-sight <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>Crossing the lake in thick fog with nothing<br />to be seen except the buoy to starboard<br />marking the rock we didn’t want to hit<br />that Tom said we’d already passed but<br />Whit said <em>No, we’re way beyond it</em> which is<br />when the boat rose up bow riding high to leave<br />us stranded the boat an ark the rock a mountain<br />the fog a cloud that covered us waiting for who<br />knew what—a voice, a face, a sudden shining—<br />but there was nothing more than thinking how<br />many times when losing sight we circle back<br />to where we started only to begin again.</p> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Sarah Rossiter 27843 at http://www.christiancentury.org Song to hum while opening mail from a friend http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/song-hum-while-opening-mail-friend <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>O the very fact that there are friends who write with their hands<br />Even if just the forefingers hammering away on keyboards, and<br />Also then print out the resulting muddle and scrawl and scribble<br />And pop it in the postbox! The lickable areas on the envelopes!<br />The Return Address Just in Case! The choice of stamps, and we<br />All blessedly have friends who carefully choose their stamps, &amp;<br />Stand in line at the post office asking for the ones with Authors,<br />Or members of the Simpson family, or stamps with Polar Bears!<br />And the fact that there are fifty addresses in your memory, some<br />Of them no longer inhabited by the people you loved to write to;<br />Much like your mind retains past phone numbers and exchanges,<br />Like Mayfair and Ludlow and Allegheny and Cypress and Tulip!<br />And the fact that you can draw all morning on an envelope or by<br />God paint it flagrantly with horses and angels, and your postman<br />Will deliver it anyway! Probably grinning at the nut who mailed<br />It to you! And you can put a few grains of sand inside your note,<br />From the beach we went to as children, or a feather from a hawk<br />Who glared in the window like an insurance adjuster with talons,<br />Or a painting by a child, or a photograph of four of the names of<br />That which we call God for lack of a better label. Even the folds<br />Of the paper, and the paperness of the paper, and the fact that it’s<br />All about miracles and affection, which is to say, of course, love!<br />Sure it is. All the good parts are about love, in all its many masks.</p> </div> </div> </div> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Brian Doyle 27859 at http://www.christiancentury.org The station band http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/station-band <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>We practiced at “The Decontam”—<br />clumsy name for an ugly place—bare concrete rooms<br />buried beneath a protective pyramid mound of soil, turf,<br />and God knows what, designated sanctuary nonetheless<br />for any unlucky enough “in the event of nuclear attack” to survive<br />the initial blast and burn to reach this subterranean space of hollow refuge.<br />The Station Decontamination Centre—to rhyme the place in full,<br />an—as yet—unfrequented location (praises be . . .) where, Tuesday nights,<br />an ill-assorted crew of horns and woodwinds—sackbuts, cornets,<br />clarinets, even the occasional bassoon—would fumble-stumble<br />along through “Colonel Bogey,” “The RAF March Past,”<br />old favorites from Gilbert and Sullivan, “Chu Chin Chow,” and Noel Coward,<br />rehearsing for the CO’s garden party, full-dress dinner evenings at the Mess.<br />They echoed so, those naked rooms and sounding corridors, as if our music<br />might drown out—yes, decontaminate—the cold, blind fury<br />cradled tight beneath the wings of our sleek avenging bombers;<br />full squadrons perched above in laden readiness,<br />paying no heed to our hapless melodies and marches.</p> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 05:00:00 +0000 J. Barrie Shepherd 27731 at http://www.christiancentury.org At dusk http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/dusk <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>There’s a black cloud over the hill.<br />There’s a black cloud over the school.<br /><br />The grass shoves the shed to the fence<br />at property’s edge. Rumor says under the shed<br /><br />there’s a copperhead or two. Rightly, crawl space<br />is what these burnished snakes are banished to,<br /><br />but the nettled grass, the chain link fence<br />fail to bar them from the dappled yard.<br /><br />There are grackles under the trees.<br />Under the trees at dusk there are grackles<br /><br />that peck and crack pecans near the hedge.<br />A squirrel skitters and scats up a scaly bole<br /><br />in fear of these dark birds with squatters’ rights,<br />while the sky . . . ? It folds and is quietly stored away.</p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Greg Huteson 27745 at http://www.christiancentury.org The poem about what it’s about http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/poem-about-what-it-s-about <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>Here’s my question. What if there was a poem<br />That didn’t know what it was about until it got<br />To the end of itself? So that the poet’s job isn’t<br />To play with imagery and cadence and metrical<br />Toys in order to make a point, but rather to just<br />Keep going in order to find out that the poem is<br />About how hard it is to watch your kids get hurt<br />By things they can’t manage and you cannot fix.<br />If <em>I</em> had been the boss of this poem I would have<br />Made it so they <em>can</em> manage things, or I could be<br />The quiet fixer I always wanted to be as a father;<br />But that’s not what the poem wanted to be about,<br />It turns out. This poem is just like your daughter:<br />No one knows what’s going to happen, and there<br />Will be pain, and you can’t fix everything, and it<br />Hurts to watch, and you are terrified even as you<br />Try to stay calm and cool and pretend to manage.<br />Some poems you can leave when they thrash too<br />Much but kids are not those sorts of poems. They<br />Have to keep writing themselves, and it turns out<br />You are not allowed to edit. You’re not in charge<br />At <em>all</em>—a major bummer. I guess there’s a lesson<br />Here about literature, about how you have to sing<br />Without knowing the score . . . something like that.<br />All you can do is sing wildly and hope it’ll finish<br />So joyous and refreshing that you gape with awe.</p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Brian Doyle 27750 at http://www.christiancentury.org sabbath http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/sabbath <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>where’s alfreddy who cuts<br />your grass or lifts your rake<br />when you’re not looking and<br />where’s the reliable gunfire<br />from the deuce-eights’<br />section eight doorways down<br />on twenty-eighth on<br />this last day of August lavender<br />all rotted at the bottom<br />splayed across the concrete<br />walk as you sit<br />barefoot on the porch steps<br />and watch without a thought<br />honeybees and bumblebees<br />ascend and drop in praise<br />of higher fragrances<br />and offer thanks there’s no<br />parade today for trayvon<br />on your street named<br />mlk jr way<br />because you’re that weary<br /><br />so for this moment with<br />this breath you God<br />bless the bees</p> </div> </div> </div> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Leland Seese 27611 at http://www.christiancentury.org Bangor to Holyhead by bus http://www.christiancentury.org/artsculture/poems/bangor-holyhead-bus <div class="field field-type-text field-field-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd field-item-first"> <p>There are no plumy accents<br />when traveling by coach,<br />just ordinary people<br />going about extraordinary lives.<br />The bus grinds through<br />small, forgotten villages,<br />stops for elderly women<br />with rheumy eyes dragging<br />plaid shopping trolleys,<br />stops for old men<br />under flat woolen caps,<br />hearing aids at odd angles<br />whistling in their hairy ears,<br />stops for weary young mums<br />with impossibly complex prams.<br />We bump by sodden fields of sheep,<br />into market towns no longer<br />proffering produce, only plastic.<br />Yet three times on this journey<br />I have seen standing stones,<br />great, gray plinths alone in fields,<br />reminders of time immemorial,<br />reminders there is more<br />than what appears to be.<br />They watch us hurtle by.</p> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 05:00:00 +0000 Bonnie Thurston 27616 at http://www.christiancentury.org