Of all the Gospel episodes, the Annunciation has long been one of the favorites of poets. The scene is unique and literally earth-shaking: Gabriel’s sudden appearance to the girl Mary, his announcement that she will bear a son who will be “the Son of the Most High,” her puzzlement (“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”), and her final yes—“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” [Read more…]
The days following the election have been dark indeed. People unhappy with the outcome fear for many Americans’ safety and freedoms. Supporters of the president-elect feel alienated and misunderstood. The nation’s unsettled tenor reminds me of that post-9/11 haze in which we stumbled through our days unsure of what would happen next. Except this time we’re moving through a haze divided. Yet in these distressing times, a number of us have felt emboldened to love more and notice more: to live out our faith in the small actions of our everyday lives. I don’t know what the next four years will bring, but I know my child needs my patient encouragement—tonight—on his math homework. My friend—today—needs to cry on my couch with a mug of green tea in her hands. These small actions are also a sabbath rest. By setting ourselves aside, we let go of control and let love take over. Of course (O paradoxical God!), that’s when the most change happens. In “Full Thunder Moon,” poet Julie L. Moore enters a moment of immense personal darkness and lets the rain fall. The fact that the “storm doesn’t give a rip” both saddens and heartens me. We hurt, we “seek refuge.” We often do it alone, soaked in despair as the world goes on. Thank God the world goes on. Regardless of our suffering, there are always new generations of sparrows and finches seeking shelter from the rain.
—Tania Runyan [Read more…]
“The leukemia is creeping toward trouble zone,” I answered, “and I’m not sleeping much, so sometimes I’m pretty wiped. I don’t deal well with physical discomfort.” Then I added, laughing but serious, “I feel ready for eternal life.” [Read more…]
In this month of painful national and international news, Tania Runyan’s poem “Onesimus” offers a gut-deep breath of brotherhood. The poem recounts the story of Philemon, a new Christian Paul addresses on behalf of Onesimus, both Philemon’s fugitive slave and also a new convert. In “Onesimus,” Runyan singles out, perhaps, the most marginalized and voiceless in the ancient Greco-Roman world: the slave. Allowing him to directly address Philemon in a voice as ridged with humanity as a fingerprint, Onesimus focuses on images that establish the paradox the poem builds on. Gnashing lions who love “blood sweet with freedom’s fleeting breath,” flesh-splitting lashings, and even a branding are all, within the context of the narrative, lawful punishments for Onesimus’s failed escape. But the poem uses the raw imagery not to merely implicate Onesimus but to tether the reader to Onesimus’s plight much the way it tethers Onesimus to Philemon. In the last lines, the poem completes its shift from Onesimus’s plight and toward his humanity in his use of the powerful and symbolic “I am.” Onesimus cannot escape Philemon nor can Philemon escape Onesimus—either his suffering or his humanity. This revelation lodges itself into both the reader’s chest and into Philemon’s life to “pump forgiveness and prayer through your veins /…make you / see Christ in every jangling harlot….” It’s the image of both men being bound to one another that moves the poem toward a radical brotherhood that makes them both equally “a slave to God’s bidding.”
-Jill Reid [Read more…]
What attracts me to this poem is something deliberately absent yet evocatively present: baptism in a river. Starting from the very first line—during monastic prayer, the speaker’s mis-chanting “Lord’s forever” as “Lord’s river”—rivers are central to each vignette. There’s the creek where, as a kid, the speaker “took a girl down to the river to play—not pray”: that teasing echo of the song about river baptism. There’s the deer he then killed, stumbling “toward the Smith River”: its death “brought the Lord by the water.” There’s the speaker and his Dad fly-fishing, with the memory of his Dad as close to “a saint.” And finally, there’s the barge breaking up ice on the Hudson River outside the monastery as Matins is chanted. All these river images bring us close to the sanctifying water of baptism—close, but not quite there. Yet in a marvelously mysterious way, our baptism into Christ’s life and death is at the poem’s core.
-Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]