Recently I had two poems published in the online journal Kosmeo, which is subtitled “Adorning the profession of the gospel through creative offerings.” One of the poems, “What the Rich Young Man Said,” was published in an earlier version on my blog here — but I’ve revised is since then, because I keep thinking about the question of what it is the rich man really needs to give up, in order to inherit eternal life.
I thought I’d post the second poem here, in honor of the Lenten season. I wrote it while thinking of the relationship between the liturgical seasons of preparation, Advent before Christmas, and Lent or Passiontide before Easter. Of late I find that both contain dark challenges and bright promises, in different but complementary ways. How do you experience this time?
Advent / Lent
Two shadow paths, leading toward
two kinds of death, of birth. The difference
is hard to fathom, first, for both
are ways the world begins and ends.
In dark December, a dying sun
buries itself in Mary’s womb.
These are the last days, the end times
of our whole evolution.
This is when the fatal ship
strains to turn and miss the iceberg.
Will it work? We’re not sure, listening
in icy calm for the crash, the hole.
Cover it up if you like with lights
and gifts, determined cheeriness;
this is a shaky time.
The darkness of Lent is different.
The crash has happened, and the hole.
A hole’s been dug in earth for seeds
of future growth. I put my hands
into the ground and feel life stirring.
Not time yet to plant, but soon. Prepare
by thinking of the grain, the seed.
How does a plant encode itself?
How does it pack its leaves and stems,
blossoms and fruit, all formed in the sun,
into a lightless shell?
What concentration does it take
to strip away to essence,
becoming a thought
interred in the brain
that is a tomb,
the stony place
where no sun shines?
He planted himself –
the thought bears life.
He’s in the earth now, and I too
can go there to be born again,
to be an egg waiting to crack,
a seed prepared to sprout.
It only takes the willingness
to die, that’s all. That’s all! Just die
and grow. The world has already ended.
Life is beginning, if you’ll allow it.