Thursday, April 09, 2009

Two Poem Drafts

The first is just a bit of a lark. But the second, a summary of the book of Lamentations, I don't generally recommend that you read. Lamentations is a brutal book, a cry of pain and anguish in the face of terrible and cataclysmic destruction, ending in no certainty at all, and its summary necessarily makes for a brutal poem (also ending in no certainty). I set out to make it while reflecting on the fact that this lovely passage (I use the ESV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

occurs right in the middle of a book that describes things terrible beyond imagining. You and I live very comfortably. We cannot mean it as the author of those verses did. If we say it or sing it, it sounds saccharine, like happily belting out "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" in pleasant and comfortable times. But in this context it is not saccharine. To say it as the author did you would have to say it with anguish but with firmness, when your world has ended, when all good things you know have come to a violent end, when you have been brought to things you would never have dreamed in nightmares, as this author said it: then it would not be just words, but the very doctrine itself.


A Brief Argument for Why You Should Agree with Me


I'd believe you were it possible,
I really and truly would!
But, fact is, no reasonable mind
ever, ever could.
I know you think you know it,
and that your faith is strong,
but everything you have ever said
is nonsense and is wrong.
I know you think you mean well,
believing as you do,
but you should never try
to believe what isn't true.
And does your conclusion follow
from the premises you had?
That's a clear and striking proof
that your premises are bad,
for, sure as truth works truly,
as all roads lead to Rome,
every reasonable inference
in my view comes to home!

Lamentations

The roads to Zion mourn,
her women are raped beside;
in the sanguine city square
the dandled infant dies.
In the streets the ruthless sword
tears husband from his wife;
in every house and home
it strips away all life.
With fury and with wrath
the Lord became our foe,
to ruin every wall
and render every woe
until the sabbaths end,
and all the feasts have failed,
and law has fled away
before the whip and flail,
and prophet's visions cease,
for their lies the Lord detests,
and babies' blood pours out
upon their mothers' breasts.
The joy of all the earth
has vanished in the flame,
the completion of all beauty
became a jeering name.
Hunger's gnawing death
a ruthless need now gives,
and mothers boil their babes
that other babes might live,
and women eat their children,
the ones for whom they care,
for none the famine leaves,
and none the famine spares.
On the temple steps
are priest and prophet slain;
on street and porch and field
the people fall like rain --
the young, the grown, the old,
all bloody dusty ground,
and maid and youth together
are in the corpses found.
Our end drew near, relentless,
like the beat of constant drum;
our days like coins were numbered --
and now our end is come.
But though I fall aside
yet still my tongue might say
his love endures forever,
is new again each day,
and he is yet our portion,
whatever our fickle fate,
and he is good with glory
to those who for him wait.
But, Lord, you reign forever
on everlasting throne!
Why do you forget your children
and leave us all alone?
Return us to your bosom,
that we may be restored!
Or are we cast off forever,
in wrath to be ignored?

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