Viral Dailies, Easter…

Easter morning. A triptych of Easter poems I’ve composed over the years, “Morning, breath”, “After the tomb”, and “Death’s death.”

Most of us have heard the story. Now, we must learn again how to breath…

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Morning, breath

As morning reaches where only night had been,

dew once more settles on the brittle earth

and breath returns to one,

so all can breathe again.

 

After the tomb

When blood, still damp, soaked through

the sleeves of shrug-shoulder’d men,

did you cry for their laughter?

 

Were your accusers held in sleep

when Mary’s shaking hands

held fast your plundered feet?

 

How long before bewildered men

and doting women find again

their reasons for remonstrance?

 

Will a miracle suffice

to fill the gaps in minds too young

not to lust for proof?

 

Were the angels surprised

to find their silenced songs

reignited for their fittest subject?

 

Did you know these walls would

only remind you of this one, unending breath?

This one effortless act for one so bored of death?

 

Death’s death

Live! Live! Not one minute

more to solemnize the squaring truths

of the dark, exasperating. Exsanguinating.

The probing luminant, juggernaut

of dawn brought down as a quickening

shade of brilliance over the tar-black,

songless night – now gasping out

its own greying reminiscence.

Kicking against the goads, a denouement

of despair, decay’s quietus comes to mock.

But its voice is too dry now for anything more

than the androgynous whisper of a skeleton.

The bones rattle and try in vain to spark, to scare,

to survive the day, already here.

Death, this needy after-thought, this choking

wheeze of duskish, tight-lipp’d groaning –

it can no longer hunt, its legs are

broken, a dislocated shoulder no longer

suited to hefting hopelessness.

Spring! Spring! O antediluvian Spring! How

many are your salted children, lined up

outside your garden wall. Someone

has unchink’d the tangled gate and trodden new

footprints – fresh, ancient and deep – in the Virgin soil.

We come too, having hid ourselves in

the wisp of your blood-colour’d sleeves.

Droughted, now, a tomb and the perfect surprise:

breaths in lungs once shut, re-sighted eyes,

and in the first of all new hours,

Someone has made light work of death.

Viral Dailies, Day 11

Holy Saturday. A day of inexpressible anguish and loss. Far too often, contemporary Christianity seeks to gloss over this day in a mad rush to the Alleluias of Easter. This is unfortunate and weak theology. There is no resurrection without a tomb. There is no tomb without death. In Jesus’ case, an ignominious death. Unceremonial. Reprehensible. 

If ever there was a poem more suited to the dark hopelessness of this day it is the famous “Funeral Blues” by W. H. Auden.

Read. Sit. Ponder. Enter. Weep. Repeat. cc3c814bbf7430dd989d215c30770cb8.jpg

Viral Dailies, Day 10

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Good Friday.

Well, not so good for someone. Especially so for the rest of us. This day in history, God absorbed all the hatred, shame, pain, violence, discrimination, sin, and division into himself. Jesus became the great black hole out of which could escape nothing other than love, redemption, hope, and all things new.

As we lean, by faith, into this cosmic narrative, what once was dark can become light again. What once promised fear and undoing, now has potential to unlock a billion answered prayers.

This poem isn’t specifically a Good Friday poem. It is however, in the context of night and sleep, a promise therefrom. 

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nighttime songs our fears erase

a story lived, now story told

we, early young, now later, old

see stranger things than daytime held

but not without our sorrows quelled

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we fluff and tuck and yawn and brush

pray God remove all sinning blush

the air now cool in silver glow

what dreams may come we do not know

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divested now of time and chance

we bid adieu and leave the dance

till thricely woven round with grace

the nighttime songs our fears erase

 

(c)Robert Alan Rife, 2013

Viral Dailies, Day 9

Today is Maundy Thursday.

Maundatum. Mandate. Commandment, from Jesus’ own words, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). It seems a little strange that such an ‘obvious’ thing should need a mention at all and that he calls it ‘new.’ 

But, there it is.

It was also the day when Jesus, through a shared meal, instituted the great theological metaphor of The Lord’s Supper, Communion, Eucharist. The sacrament. In it, the holy and profane kiss in one simple act.

Jesus, himself a living sacrament, brings a constant source of spiritual nourishment by means of something we do every day.

In celebration of this holy day, in the context of National Poetry Month, I give you this powerful sonnet by the ever-brilliant, Malcolm Guite.

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Maundy Thursday

Here is the source of every sacrament,

The all-transforming presence of the Lord,

Replenishing our every element

Remaking us in his creative Word.

For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,

The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,

The fire dances where the candles shine,

The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.

And here He shows the full extent of love

To us whose love is always incomplete,

In vain we search the heavens high above,

The God of love is kneeling at our feet.

Though we betray Him, though it is the night.

He meets us here and loves us into light.

Viral Dailies, Day 7

National Poetry Month.

Holy Tuesday.

COVID-19.

Social Distancing.

Kinda writes itself, doesn’t it?

Nah, we can do better. Instead, here’s a glorious piece by everyone’s favourite poet, Mary Oliver, God rest her. In this poem, she uses the ever-changing image of a swan to indicate the changes life imposes, coaxes, and expects from us. Who will we become as we drift and swim and soar through its days?

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The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?

Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –

An armful of white blossoms,

A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned

into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,

Biting the air with its black beak?

Did you hear it, fluting and whistling

A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall

Knifing down the black ledges?

And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –

A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet

Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?

And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?

And have you changed your life?

Viral Dailies, Day 6

Holy Week continues, as does National Poetry Month…as does our shared quarantine. I think it is the perfect day to feature again Anneliese Myers. She is a talented, young poet who is also a friend and colleague with whom I served at Yakima Covenant Church. The breezy, whimsical quality of her work is easily matched by its heft. I hope you enjoy this as much as I.

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10,000 Reasons

So, I’ve written

10,000 words this week –

give or take.

It took thirty-eight-twenty-nine

to critique maps

hanging in dusty classroom 178.

 

Nine-eighty-one

summarized articles

about dead people and

outdated techniques;

forty-two-sixty-three

proposed research that,

once I get my degree,

no one will see.

 

The other –

thousandish? –

replied to a fraction

of e-mails received.

So, I thought, maybe now

I could write a word

 

to You.

But I’m tired,

uninspired,

and can write nothing new.

If only You gave deadlines

or promised feedback.

If only my heart moved against

the courage I lack.

 

-©Anneliese Myers

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Anneliese Myers is a wife and graduate student in Yakima, WA. While pursuing a Master’s degree in Biology, she still finds time to write, looking for inspiration in her faith, family, and the beautiful Cascade mountains where her field work takes place. 

Viral Dailies, Day 5

Today, National Poetry Month, my Viral Dailies poetry features and Holy Week converge. As such, this entire week will feature poetry that helps us turn our attentions in that direction. Palm Sunday of course recognizes that day when Jesus enters Jerusalem, riding the back of a donkey. It was an act of subversion, reversal, theology; it was, ultimately, an act of peace. On Palm Sunday, God in Jesus says ‘no’ to empire and ‘yes’ to the communion of the lost-and-found. In this act, Jesus pictures himself ruling not as dictator or caesar, but as Prince of Peace.

Today, I give you an older poem suitable to the day. Let’s have a blessed Holy Week together, sharing sacred thought and memory, and swallowing whole the hope it brings as we huddle in our homes, hiding from the COVID-19 scourge.

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the stones know something we do not

their tears now stain a palm-laden street

and cries reserved for a different day

burst out

unsettled

unstoppable

unreserved

for today only the stones understand

who rides upon them

 

(c)Robert Alan Rife, 4/13/14

Image found here