Driving Through the Irish Mountains

I do not care to travel much.
It’s not so much that I don’t like
To see the sights and feel the shock
Of fresh experience. I do
Enjoy that rare experience,
But in my mind these things take time,
And time is rare on trips like this.

We rush so fast from place to place
That all we really see is our
Reflections on each other. We
Can survey our environment;
The study is what we perceive
The clearest in our chartered screens.
And in this rush, the mountain view,
Its waterfalls and craggy peaks,
Is vanished in a vasty green
That blurs the glints of treasure far beneath.

My inclination then is just to run
As quickly as I can — to hide
In some secluded, quiet place,
Far from the madding crowd, and hold me still —
To mine for what is hidden, what is real.

I often fail to find it, whizzing down
The mountain roads, but always there’s
A hint of something beautiful:
The way the pubs all close at ten,
Or how the Irishman says, “now,”
To mean a process is complete;
The sight of all the hills denuded of
Their trees and filled instead with sheep.
The sight of barebacked mountains has
A holy feel to someone raised
On tufts of grass and clouds of dust
That stretch beyond the skyline.
Plains! they call them.
Furling out another world away,
And furling always in my heart and mind.

And so it always shocks me, when
I see variety. It feels
Just like my first time driving through
A city filled with trees. The things
Amazed me, how in just a little time
Abandoned plots could be transformed
Into a checkered wood, and grow
So thick and lush with pines and firs
And vines of every species. Trees
Were everywhere, and everywhere I looked,
It seemed so deep and rich, enfolding you
The way a mother holds her child.
But once a little time had passed,
The trees grew old on me. Eventually
I longed to see the sky again.
I have no way to tell the sense I have
for going home: again to feel the wind
And gaze into a great big sky.

And this is how I come again
Upon these mountains jutting up against the bus,
My window sometimes flecked by giant ferns.
The road seems almost out of place
So smooth and even is its keel.
The clouds are flowing rapidly,
A breath above the mountain peaks.
I like to think that from those points,
My eyes could grace a hundred vales
And see a thousand stone-walled fields,
Littered full of grazing sheep.

I lift my eyes, and looking up,
I feel myself surrounded by the heavens:
Bits of home inside me, reaching out to every place.

With apologies to Pangur Ban

There is no time I am happier now
Than about 5:30 in the morning
My morning mug, my little book…
Sometimes I think it isn’t love of scripture
That causes me to study
But love of study that pulls me to the scriptures

What truth is more certain
Than holy scripture?
What is so important, valuable
That a man must make space
For peace and quiet
To read, and do more than read?

Oh Lord, I would be happy
To sit like this forever.
An hour a day or ten, it doesn’t matter.
I don’t know if I’m called to be a pastor
If evangelism is the standard, I have seen no converts.
But one year or ten working my headache job
Coming home to noise and laughter
And rising up early to behold wondrous things…
It is enough; I am content.

Opening Thoughts, Marred by Verse

This poem isn’t really finished, but it’s at least round the first bend, and since somehow I’ve already managed to post it once by accident, I’ll let you read what’s there while I work on the rest.

I have been reading Dante, so
Forgive me, if you may,
The way that I am strewing all
These iams on the page.

The mind adapts itself unto
The pattern that it’s fed
And replicates it endlessly
While pulling on its thread –
Unraveling, re-raveling
With endless permutation,
A master-house that has the goal
Of its own renovation.

Who has seen a created thing
That’s made quite like the mind?
Do fish, or birds, or arthropods,
Or beasts that feed on grass
Create themselves the path they follow
And set their lives to plans?
But such is man who’s made like God
The created who creates.
He picks a star and sets his course,
And rides in his own wake.

Yet, unlike God, who gets to choose,
Man also cannot choose.
The mirror shines, and so must he,
Reflecting what he sees.
He halts a bit, and modifies,
Changes meter, or the rhyme,
Opens up his aperture,
Adjusts his shutter speed.

But he cannot cease to worship.
He cannot cease to feed
On wisdom, honor, truth and beauty.
The numinous, the seed
Of glory ever lives inside him
and grows there like a weed.
It forces him to seek the holy
With a holy sort of greed.

And Lord, here is your gardener,
Standing in the field:
He has his seed; he has the soil,
He has a hoe to wield.
He has his purpose, and his duty,
And has the call to choose.
But still he cannot force himself
To ever choose the good.

And like a telescope deciding
Stars are without worth –
It twists itself to look for something,
Unhinging from it’s posts,
Then sways and tips, and holding… falls,
Its lens now mired in earth,
Its vision-shaft now soundly bent,
And lost to starry hosts.
Yet something still is working there,
Receiving what it sees,
Passing up exhumous visions,
Displaying rotten leaves.

So the human constitution,
Though broken by its fall,
Cannot help but seek its purpose,
Shaping self and all
The cosmos to the god it’s fashioned,
Cycling god and self
And cosmos, thralled with choosing, still
Desiring something else.

Exhortation

This fallen world affects all creatures,
Saint and sinner, with the bread
Of hard affliction—mournful soul-ache,
Unjust judgment, creeping dread.

But the God of all creation
Has engineered a hidden path
Wherein the sweetest, purest pleasures
In affliction may be had.

The wise are found in those dark mine shafts
Sifting ore from worthless slag,
While the torrents of life’s hardships
Fall like oil upon their heads.

And the key into this pathway
Where God’s favorites know to hide
Is the simple abjuration
Of any form of human pride. Continue reading “Exhortation”

Two poems

Valerie and I were working on wedding invitations tonight. She found the stationary that she’s been wanting at bargain prices, but we had to order them immediately. This meant that, in order to get our own wording on the cards (instead of stock phrasing), we had to write them up tonight.

We searched for poetry already written that said what we wanted to say, but found none. So I tried my own hand at writing Hallmark poetry.

The first attempt wasn’t so… appropriate:

They called it love when we held our hands together
And called us fools when we allowed not love to take its course
But greater love has none of us than charity
Which lays down its life and takes up another by its choice

It’s a bad omen to mention fornication in the wedding invitation, right?

The second attempt seemed much better, so we’re going with it:

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves
It is He who has brought us together
His is the tie that shall bind us as one
And His mercies that guard us forever

I would like to point out that it’s been just under a year since I wrote poetry last, and now I’ve written four in as many days. When it rains…

And now it’s late. I’m going to bed.

You Never Leave Me Alone

I see you’re into me
Like a Mozart’s into music
Like a Rembrandt’s into painting
Like a baby’s into being
Being alive

I see you’re into me
Like I should be into you
But I just can’t seem to get my heart around
…Turn my heart around

I see you’re chasing me
Like an comet chasing starlight
Like a clock that’s chasing moments
Like a cloud that’s chasing rain
On a sunny day.

You paste me up like sunshine
Like a cloud that’s chasing rain
You just don’t seem to ever let me down
…Don’t let me down

How many broken bones have you found this way?
How many undertones have you brushed away?
Is there anything left in me that you haven’t changed?
It doesn’t matter, anyway—
You never leave me alone.

I see you’ve got me now
Like a ring around my finger
Like a rope around my neck
Like a chain around my arms
As you lead me home

You’ve captured me for good
I can see it in your eyes
“I’ve finally got you where I want you now”
…I want you now.

How many broken bones have you found this way?
How many undertones have you brushed away?
Is there anything left in me that you haven’t changed?
It doesn’t matter, anyway—
You never leave me alone.

Redemption

I know I have a home in Zion
A land where milk and honey flow
A place where all my dreams and desires
Will fade before the One I know

His glory shines above the highest mountaintops
His patience bears me far beyond my schemes
His love resounds when I am lost and wandering
His grace is far too much for me

And yet somehow, when all the past is gone
When all my brokenness is burned away
When all the crimes of humanness have flown
He still retains the core of me.

I have a home where flowers never fall away
Where birds have yet to fail to sing
Where peace and rest are never far away
And where the One who knows me best returns
To put to rest my best attempts to be.

UPDATE: You know how really good music can do amazing things with mediocre lyrics? Yeah. When I wrote this song, I had the most amazing jazz melody going on with it. It was great. So great, in fact, I didn’t really notice that the lyrics were only so-so. Now, a couple hours later, I’ve completely forgotten the melody and all I have left is the lyrics. What’s more, every time I try to reconstruct the melody from what I remember, it comes out really hick/country sounding.

This song is now totally ruined for me. I hope somebody else gets something out of it.

UPDATE AGAIN: I rememberd my cool melody. Song is better now. I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from my disillusionment, though.