Many Strands

My hair is long, curly, and thick.

I grab a curl, a lock, and

Twirl it around my finger.

There are many strands.

I feel its weight and density.

I wrap it around my finger a few times.

I pull it back a bit—to get a

Better look at the individual

Strands wrapped around

My finger—

“A part of me,” I think.

I pull the hair toward me,

And I sniff:

Residual Chanel #5 lingers,

It’s the end of the day.

The brown, black, red mingle

Twisted on my finger.

This hair has grown

On my head since the

Beginning. From the moment

I could grow hair.

The hair I touch, though trimmed

And cut over all these years,

Is part of the same hair

That was present when I was born;

One continuous stream of me.

The strands wrapped around

My finger…

Cause me pause.

I think for a moment.

I remember. I feel. I cry.

And the tears fall from my

Pressed lids

Passing through my eyelashes

Onto my cheeks—

The wet washes through

The light powder I just applied,

Dragging along the mascara,

Leaving a trace of black behind.

(I’d say there’s a “tear’s trace”

But that colloquialism is taxed.)

Reflexively, I pull my

My hand toward the rolling tear.

And it’s caught–

As was every tear

Prior to that one

In and by the strands of my hair

Twirled around my finger.

Every tear over these

Decades. Caught.

Caught and comforted

In the bed of my spindled hairs

Wrapped around my finger.

The individual strands of hair

Intertwined around my finger

Hold the turmoil and sorrow of

All the decades past.

The tears that have been

Shed, caught and absorbed

In the strands of my hair.

Each strand holds a key to

My life; each strand holds a

Secret worth keeping.

All of the strands intertwined

Together create a rich yet

Shallow resting ground for

The Pain and sorrow

That I’ve seen and known.

This hair, this beautiful

Hair has become the final

Resting place for so much

Sadness. Yet, all these strands

Have combined to form my

Story: the Good, Bad, and the Ugly.

My hair is long, curly, and thick.

There are many strands.

I grab a curl, a lock, and

Twirl it around my finger.

 

 

 

 

Tell Me

Tell me this isn’t all there is.

(I fear that it is.)

Tell me there’s something beyond this.

(I fear there isn’t.)

 

Tell me to take heart.

(For I feel it grow weary.)

Tell me there’s a reason to go on.

(My energy wanes.)

 

Tell me my life is precious.

(I need to remember why.)

Tell me my life hasn’t been worthless.

(I can’t silence that voice anymore.)

 

Tell me with sweet silence.

(The cacophony in my head.)

Tell me with lavish love.

(My hearts floods with fear.)

 

Tell me Jesus loves me.

(My doubt stomps about.)

Tell me Christ longs to hold me.

(I long for that sweet embrace.)

 

Tell me there will be answers.

(The questions rage.)

Tell me it’s not all for naught.

(This darkness looms.)

 

Tell me…

(I bow my head.)

Just tell me…

(Words fail me but tears don’t.)

Please, just tell me…

(Please.)

 

 

 

 

 

This Him in Her Arms

It is dark in the room,

She closes her eyes.

Not to block out light;

There is none.

It is dark in the room.

 

She closes her eyes

And lets herself be pulled away

By the rhythmic rocking

Of the rocking chair.

She closes her eyes.

 

…and lets herself be pulled away.

The sensation of her feet pressing

Against and releasing from the ground

…press and release…

And lets herself be pulled away.

 

The sensation of her feet pressing

And she is reminded that she is

Still here and still connected;

She breathes and lives.

…the sensation of her feet pressing.

 

And she is reminded that she is…

She is not alone when he squirms

Against her breast and settles.

He is here with her.

And she is reminded that she is.

 

She is not alone when he squirms

And her heart against the pressing darkness

Beats and thumps, flaunting its truculent posture.

She loves him.

She is not alone when he squirms.

 

And her heart against the pressing darkness…

It willfully ignores the prior years of pain

That caused her to shut down and push

Them all away,

And her heart against the pressing darkness…

 

It willfully ignores the prior years of pain,

Each beat and thump pushes aside

The fears she has always feared and the

Rejection that threatened.

It willfully ignores the prior years of pain.

 

Each beat and thump pushes aside

Herself for this one, this him in her arms.

She pulls him closer to her; her head bows.

She kisses him.

…Each beat and thump pushes aside.

 

Herself for this one, this him in her arms…

As in labor, she vows now again: mine for this one.

For the first time she knows what it feels like

To love.

Herself for this one, this him in her arms.

It’s Her Fault

She was born to be at fault.

She wasn’t in their plan; she happened.

She was to be the boy that would replace the older;

Delivery. “It’s a girl. I’m sorry,” her mom said.

She was the reason they never had that *real* boy.

 

While the older wrecked havoc; she absorbed.

The family fought; ready to tear apart at the seams.

She tried to soothe, tried to hold them all together.

Yet, she bore the fault of the older who deserved the wrath.

Early life taught her: “receive; you are at fault.”

 

A guy stood in a doorway a few feet away from naked-her,

Her body shivered; she tried to dress herself; she was crying.

He called her names: “whore,” “you’re nothing but a prostitute,” “hag,” “filth.”

It was her fault that his roommate took her when he wanted to;

It was she who was the whore who deserved it.

 

She gazes upon the “ring-of-vows-now-broken” still wrapping her finger.

Her heart—broken more—questions, “how did this happen?”

“I’m strong; I’m smart; I’m educated…How?” she whispers.

The silences threatens her; it has the condemning answer:

“Oh silly girl, don’t you know this by now? It’s your fault.”

In Between the Staccato

Darkness looms on the edge of the peripheral;

Lurks about, looking for it’s port of entry.

Finds what it’s looking for.

The entrance lies

In between the rain like staccato

Of my thoughts

As

They

Bounce

About

Up

And

Down

And

From

One

To

Another

To

Another

Never

Finding

Rest.

The homeless thoughts provide no protection

From Darkness’s viscous substance

And its ability to

Transude through

In between the rain like staccato

Of my thoughts.

John Donne on Sunday

From a sermon Preached at St Paul’s (Easter Day [28 March] 1623)

 

“Upon those words of the apostle, If there were no Resurrection, we were the miserablest of all men [1 Cor. 15:13, 19], the School reasons reasonably; Naturally the soul and body are united; when they are separated by death, it is contrary to nature, which nature still affects this union; and consequently the soul is the less perfect, for this separation; and it is not likely, that the perfect natural state of the soul, which is, to be united to the body, should last but three or four score years, and, in most, much less, and the unperfect state, that in the separation should last eternally, for ever: so that either the body must be believed to live again, or the soul believed to die.

 

“Never therefore dispute against thine own happiness; never say, God asks the heart, that is, the soul, and therefore rewards the soul, or punishes the soul, and hath no respect to the body; Nec auferamus cogitationes a collegio carnis, says Tertullian, Never go about to separate the thoughts of the heart from the college, from the fellowship of the body; Siquidem in carne, & cum carne, & per carnem agitur, quicquid ab anima agitur , All the that soul does, it does in, and with, and by the body. And therefore, (says he also) Caro abluitur, ut anima emaculetur, The body is washed in baptism but it is that the soul might be made clean, Caro ungitur, ut anima consecretur, In all unctions, whether that which was then in use in baptism or that which was in use at our transmigration and passage out of this world, the body was anointed, that the soul might be consecrated; Caro signatur, (says Tertullian still) un anima muniatur; the body is signed with the Cross, that the soul might be armed against temptations; And again, Caro de Corpore Christi vescitur, ut anima de Deo saginetur; My body received the body of Christ, that my soul might partake of his merits. He extends it into many particulars and sums up all thus, Non possunt in mercede separari, quæ opera conjungunt, These two, Body, and Soul, cannot be separated for ever, which, whilst they are together, concur in all that either of them do. Never think it presumption, says St Gregory, Sperare in te, quod in se exhibuit Deus homo, To hope for  that in thy self, which God admitted, when he took thy nature upon him. And God hath made it, says he, more easy than so, for thee, to believe it, because not only Christ himself, but such [humans], as tho art, did rise at the resurrection of Christ.* And therefore when our bodies  are dissolved and liquefied in the sea, putrified in the earth, resolved to ashes int the fire, macerated in the air, Velut in vasa sua transfunditur caro nostra [our flesh is poured out as if into a vessel], make account that all the world is God’s cabinet, and water, and earth, and fire, and air, are the proper boxes, in which God lays up our bodies, for the resurrection. Curiously to dispute against our own resurrection, is seditiously to dispute against the dominion of Jesus; who is not made Lord by the resurrection, if he have no subjects to follow him in the same way. We believe him to be Lord, therefore let us believe his, and our resurrection.”

 

* Seems to be a reference to Matthew 27:52 (qtd in context), “51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; 52 the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’”

Selection take from: John Donne: A Critical Edition of the Major Works,  edited by John Carey; Oxford: OUP, 1990

 

 

John Donne on Fridays

Love’s Usury
 
 
For every hour that thou wilt spare me now,

I will allow,

Usurious God of Love, twenty to thee,

When with my brown, my grey hairs equal be;

Till then, Love let my body reign, and let

Me travel, sojourn, snatch, plot, have, forget,

Resume my last year’s relict: think that yet

We had never met.

 
 
Let me think any rival’s letter mine,

And at next nine

Keep midnight’s promise; mistake by the way

The maid, and tell the Lady of that delay;

Only let me love none, no, not the sport;

From country grass, to comfitures of Court,

Or city’s quelque-choses, let report

My mind transport.

 
 
This bargain’s good; if when I am old, I be

Inflamed by thee,

If thine own honour, or my shame, or pain,

Thou covet, most at that age thou shalt gain.

Do thy will then, then subject and degree,

And fruit of love, Love, I submit to thee,

Spare me till then, I’ll bear it, though she be

One that love me.

 
 
Selection take from: John Donne: A Critical Edition of the Major Works,  edited by John Carey; Oxford: OUP, 1990

John Donne on Fridays

The Expiration

So, so, break off this last lamenting kiss,

Which sucks two souls, and vapours both away,

Turn thou ghost that way, and let me turn this,

And let ourselves benight our happiest day,

We asked none leave to love; nor will we owe

Any, so cheap a death, as saying, Go;

Go; and if that word have not quite killed thee,

Ease me with death, by bidding me go too.

Oh, if it have, let my word work on me,

And a just office on a murderer do.

Except it be too late, to kill me so,

Being double dead, going, and bidding, go.

Selection take from: John Donne: A Critical Edition of the Major Works,  edited by John Carey; Oxford: OUP, 1990

Man and Stone

I submitted the following poem as an “essay” answer to to a question about predestination and election in my introductory Systematic Theology class in seminary (for my MDiv).

He raised the metal instrument
To break the large, obdurate stone,
Fused and beautifully congruent.
Downward he thrust, painful moan;
Object intractable, to say the least,
His ax couldn’t break the cemented beast.

With his sweat drenched head and brow,
He raised the instrument above his head;
His steadfast strength would not bow
He’ll beat this stone with hands shred.
Muscles flexed, he forced the ax down
Slicing the air, his barbaric yawp did soun’.

Nothing shifted and nothing moved,
Still it laid, this cruel, cemented beast;
He wiped sweat from forehead grooved,
From victors table, he would not feast.
The sun burned down upon his scorched back,
Exhaustion peaked, sleep he did severely lack.

Full body weight rested on the weary ax arm,
Years in this quarry were wearing him thin;
Yet, it wasn’t the rocks that caused him harm,
But ego’s keen control, deep from within.
Sweat beaded on his brow once more,
This mundane task, dogmatically bore.

 

His face contorted in a painful sneer,
This burden his and only he could win;
His skin taut across ribs, a mere veneer
For his spirit cloaked, Pride’s near kin.
He shifted his weight from left to right
And gripped the heavy instrument tight.

Breath held, he wield the ax through the air,
Both arms craned, in a weird, awkward stretch;
With every fiber of his being, he paused there…
Then one violent movement, to peace a stench,
He threw the ax forward still holding the wooden end
The blade crashed against the stone, unwilling to bend.

 

His hands released the wretched instrument,
Not of will but from impact an’ vicious friction.
The handle split, and metal head broke atonement—
He was suddenly aware of this ironic sudden action—
His fingers left in a nature’s smooth, relaxed reaching pose,
His eyes trailed toward the wooden fragments still, froze’.

The sun was wickedly relentless at that climatic hour;
Each ray beat down upon his weakened frame,
Man rent useless to fate’s cruel and sublime humor.
This mere stone or act of breaking it, he could not tame.
He hated that sun more and more with each minute passing,
It illuminated his err, highlighted his nicked pride, amassing.

 

The dull and monotone quarry walls did mock him,
They cried out, laughed; he despised their presence.
His eyes scanned the area from base to quarry rim,
He felt escaping what he claimed….his very essence.
No relief was insight and this job was his to do alone,
With every aching muscle, every twisted joint and bone.

 

His knees could not bear the weight of ego’s last stand,
They bent and buckled; his mind and will would fight;
But when the body is tired…his knees hit the rocky sand,
He slumped. Man destroyed, beaten by Nature’s might.
His left hand thrust upon the dust near his scraped knee,
He gripped the muted ground…useless…it, too, could flee.

A guttural sob welled in his starved and deprived core,
The shackles around his ankles felt tighter and excruciating,
His hair fell around his face, forcing breath more and more,
His muttered words, inaudible; lips incapable of annunciating.
He used the back of his tanned, ripped and scarred hand
Spreading more blood then clearing brow of fine dust and sand.

Without forewarning or subliminal undertones,
Something shifted and something was un-still,
Breath held in anticipation, dust crossed over stones,
Eyes clenched tight, he sought Earth’s movement spill.
A breeze was starting to pick up from a point farther away,
And he sensed its impending arrival from dust’s desire to play.

It wasn’t long before the wind was full force,
Swooping and twirling, the dust filled the air;
He remained hunched and pressed against sand course,
The wind had become torture, an instrument unfair.
Breath still held, eyes compressed and shut tight,
He let out one prayer from retried will’s fight.

One splat, two…then a forceful, teary succession,
Water from the gray, clouded sky did on him fall.
The wind died and the drops left a muddied impression
On his taut, burned back—his favorite created wall.
The rain poured as the sky busted and suddenly opened up,
This blessing was poring over, spilling from Heaven’s Cup.

Water soaked and drenched his body, mind and soul,
Relaxed muscles, he slowly unfolded, he stood up tall;
A life revived—a man cleansed of dust’s and sand’s toll.
He felt renewed under every drop; he heard Spirit’s Call.
He bent over and grabbed the stubborn cemented beast,
And hurled it toward the most distant point, utterly east.

 

The stone ungracefully soared through the watery sky,
As the man stood, he awaited the stone’s future landing.
He beheld the cruel object, sternly, in the pupil of his eye
It shattered against other stones. He was the one left standing.
A beautifully tragic ending to an ugly, cemented, beastly stone
That dry was solid and firm; but water weakened, broken by mere bone.

The man gently rolled his head back and enjoyed the still rain,
The water cleansed his brow and pored through unkempt hair.
He knew, in him, something stronger and greater did reign,
Arms outstretched, he desired not to move but there remain.
Not by his strength was he to win this begrudging internal fight,
For it is all by Love’s first gift that opened this passage sealed tight.

He opened his mouth and released vocal chords in a loud, mellifluous laugh,
The notes ran, nay sprinted heavenward; each one filled with joy and delight.
Just like Moses’ song at the sealing of the Red Sea, raising His Victory Staff,
As the Israelites danced in the presence of their God, in His awesome might.
For they, like this man, knew that this was more than mere happenstance,
It was the awesome power of a destined to be, foreordained circumstance.

 

 

–(lre larkin (2004/2005); inspired by Article XVII of The 39 Articles.) Originally posted at www.mbird.com: http://www.mbird.com/2008/11/man-and-stone-part-i/ and http://www.mbird.com/2008/11/man-and-stone-part-ii/

 

 

John Donne on Fridays

Holy Sonnets

12

Father, part of his double interest

Unto thy kingdom, thy Son gives to me,

He jointure in the knotty Trinity

He keeps, and gives me his death’s conquest.

This Lamb, whose death with life the world hath blessed,

Was from the world’s beginning slain, and he

Hat made two wills, which with the legacy

Of his and thy kingdom, do thy sons invest.

Yet such are thy laws, that men argue yet

Whether a man those statutes can fulfil;

None doth, but thy all-healing grace and Spirit

Revive again what law and letter kill.

Thy law’s abridgement, and thy last command

Is all but love; oh let that last will stand!

 

 

 

Selection take from: John Donne: A Critical Edition of the Major Works,  edited by John Carey; Oxford: OUP, 1990