A Quadrille of Conjoined Tankas

Gusts pierce old windows
As I enter cold kitchen.
The new year still creaks. 
Calendars change as snow falls.
Aromatic tea wakes bones.

Silent draft reminds:
You are blessed to be so warm!
Howling wind reminds:
Halloween is not scary
Compared to homeless winter!

Poem crafted in response to Quadrille Challenge #71 by dVerse. I am currently decompressing from preparing for Sunday’s Annual Meeting at the church I serve by using the creative side of my brain. Too much analysis and planning leaves my creative side in need of expression. There are worse things to do at your desk while enjoying a sandwich and cup of tea!

A Poem from Charles Wesley

If death my friend and me divide,
thou dost not, Lord, my sorrow chide,
or frown my tears to see;
restrained from passionate excess,
thou bidst me mourn in calm distress
for them that rest in thee.


I feel a strong immortal hope,
which bears my mournful spirit up
beneath its mountain load;
redeemed from death, and grief, and pain,
I soon shall find my friend again
within the arms of God.

Pass a few fleeting moments more
and death the blessing shall restore
which death has snatched away;
for me thou wilt the summons send,
and give me back my parted friend
in that eternal day.

Charles Wesley, “If death my friend and me divide,” 1762

I have been working on both the final reports for next week’s Annual Meeting at Maine Federated Church and last minute arrangements for the funeral of a beloved church member. Blogging has not been a priority for the last few days.

I wanted to share this poem by Charles Wesley for two reasons. First, I am using it during the service tomorrow. Second, I find it an inspiring statement of faith. You can learn more about Charles Wesley here!

A Yearning Tanka

I stood in the rain
Searching sky for a rainbow.
A symbol of hope
Was all that I sought above
A wet hospital crosswalk.

This poem was inspired when I exited a hospital today after a lengthy visit with a family. It was dark, rainy, and the sun poured in despite my mood. If you have a pastor who regularly cares for you or your loved ones, I encourage you to offer them a bit of love.

There are probably moments where they too stand in the rain, looking for the hope that others need them to express. Indeed, I found my rainbow, but I will admit that I threw a temper tantrum and stood on the sidewalk until it showed up.

“Epiphany Tanka”

Before I even share my poem, a Merry Christmas Eve to all of the Orthodox folks out there who will celebrate Christmas tomorrow. May God bless you and your celebration!

Snow falls through dark sky
Shifting past still planter hooks.
Light will brim at dawn
On lands awaiting the thaw
After Jack Frost settles abed.
My poetry journal. Yes, I did have several composition books bound together…

Pastoral Ghazal

Some believe that Justice must be blind---
Eyes covered from all a glimpse could find.

If true, I'd like to give her a piece of my mind
For every person I have seen tears blind.

I would rather Compassion with a strong arm find
Ready to seek the mourning to hold and bind.

Our own world with Justice I would leave behind—
Strip away tear stained rocks which once shined.

Compassion take their grief to the millstone to grind—
Rob away their sorrows far from heart and mind.

Let us Ramble: Strange Praise Music…

Recently, I picked up an anthology of poetic translations of the Psalms named “The Poets’ Book of Psalms” as compiled, edited, and introduced by Laurance Wieder. I have an affinity for collecting alternative translations of the Psalms. I have enjoyed Robert Alter’s “The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary” for several years now. I was recently introduced by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat to “Psalms in a translation for praying” by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.

In the newest part of my collection of alternative translations to my tried and true New Revised Standard Version (the Wieder collection) there is a poetic translation of Psalm 150. Psalm 150 is part of the Revised Common Lectionary reading for today. John Davies, who lived from 1569 – 1626 CE translated this particular version of the Psalm. Here, from across the centuries, is John Davies poetic translation of Psalm 150:

“To him with trumpets and with flutes,
With cornets, clarions, and with lutes,
With harps, with organs, and with shawms,
With holy anthems and with psalms,
With voice of angels and of men,
Sing Alleluia: amen, amen.”

Some basic background on Sir. John Davies can be found here. To summarize, Sir. Davies was more than an Irish poet. Sir Davies was an attorney with a somewhat motley career which included being one of the most respected attorneys of the Emerald Isle and also being disbarred at different points. He has a very interesting political career both in Ireland and in England.

Regardless, in my corner of creation, Sir Davies’ poems are what most catch my attention a few centuries after their original publication. His work, while understandable, draws attention to various areas which a modern translation might miss.

My copy of “The Poets’ Book of Psalms.” Also pictured, the citrus tree my family gave me for Christmas two years ago and the Peace Lily which was a gift given to my family by a nearby church when my family moved to Maine, NY from Boonville, NY. Also, an essential oil diffuser which is a very calming addition to my home desk.

I enjoy this poetic understanding of Psalm 150 as a result of the way it draws attention to a timeless truth which I have come to understand in my own path through life. Let me point out the instruments used in the praise of God in this poem. God is praised with cornets, clarions, lutes, harps, organs, and shawms. I must say that I hear organs in worship on a regular basis due to where I serve and I do enjoy the harp when it is played well, but I do not hear much music on the radio played on cornets, clarions, or lutes. Upon first reading the translation, I did not even know what shawms might be, but after a quick google search, I did learn that it was a flute-like instrument. Shawms are not very popular on the radio these days.

The timeless truth these strange things point out is that the praise of God is greater than any instrument. There are no guitars, drum kits, d’jembes, or any of the instruments you might find in most modern praise bands. Still, in Sir Davies’ day, people praised the Lord with their own happy music. Holy anthems and psalms of Sir Davies’ day might be different from from any radio singles or YouTube praise chorus that might be produced today, but it seems that both types, although separated by centuries and cultures, praised the Lord.

Praise of God is greater than the instruments we use. When praise comes from the heart, it can be shared through a piano, a snare drum, an organ, some shawms, a bass guitar, a lute, a lyre, a harpsichord, a shofar, a bodhran, or a cowbell. I am thankful that this timeless truth is pointed out through paying attention to a very old poem from an Irish attorney.

Poem: Cracked Cisterns

The following poem is based on Jeremiah 2:1-13. I wrote my poem based on the New Revised Standard Version of the texts. I chose to write on Jeremiah 2:1-13 as it is the reading for the Second Tuesday of Lent in Year One of the Daily Office of the Book of Common Prayer.

Cracked Cisterns
Based upon Jeremiah 2:1-13

I recall days of years long since passed:
Singing songs, sharing sodas, and spending time.
Loving life with a pace both furious and fast,
As memories were created beautiful and sublime.

I remember laughter and gladness.
I remember sorrow and sadness.
I can see our steps stretched side by side.

Now we drink from different wells.
Water gushes from a cracked wall.
I watch as dried lives become shells
As the people once so close grow small.

I feel cold rain on far off shoulders.
I feel warm wind on riverside boulders.
I can see where we once were near.

Dry, parched lips seek something new.
In truth, they may need something old.
I stand with an extra cup—no idea what to do,
As hope’s light grows dim—flickering and cold.

Poem: Deborah’s Image

So today’s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary included the song sung by Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:1-12. I worked hard to write a good poem for Deborah as her story does not get told enough in the church. Like a lot of the strong women of scripture, it seems to me that her story is relegated to Women’s Bible Studies and that’s a shame. The world can always use a good example of strong women in leadership.

So here’s the poem. I’ve entitled it Deborah’s Image. Obviously, it is an acrostic of Deborah’s name.

Don’t look in the mirror and see a project that needs to be fixed–you carry the image of women like Deborah.
Everyone has an opinion about how you should live your life, but strong women begin by believe in who they could be.
Believe in yourself, believe in your falling, believe that you are here for days like today.
Outrageously enough, strong women can come from anywhere and can change everything.
Release your fear, claim your heritage, and believe in yourself.
Armies may stand against you, fear may gather behind you, doubt may circle around you, but you carry the image of strong women.
Have faith, believe, and understand that God call us all–you do have a very special place in our world.

Creative Commons License

This work by Robert Dean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

Poems: Rev. 16:1-7, Psalm 123

I returned late yesterday from the most recent session of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. My wife had sent me a text and I completely misunderstood the urgency. I rushed into town expecting to head to the hospital. I was mistaken.

While at the Academy I began to explore writing poetry again. It has been several years since I have engaged in writing poetry on a regular basis. I brought a book of poetry to help me to pass the nights in silence. I fell asleep the first night of the Academy with a stanza of poetry ringing through my mind. I awoke after a night full of beautiful dreams remembering why I loved poetry.

When a particular time in reflective silence inspired me to attempt to write a poem the floodgates were flung wide open. I started scribbling, scribbling, and scribbling some more during my free time. I spent an hour reflecting in poems, prayers, and psalms before heading to bed that night. I felt as if a long dormant part of my personality was finally breathing after years of holding a breath.

For the next 18 months (at least), I have set poetry writing based on the daily readings from the Revised Common Lectionary to be a part of my ongoing covenant to grow closer to God. Why? First, you cannot write poetry on a passage without reflecting upon the passage first. Second, most of my poems are shaped around prayer language. Third, it allows me to keep that part of my soul breathing.

To be clear, I am not always going to be sharing poems that I write. As a matter of fact, I wrote three poems today and the first one that I wrote is not for public consumption. Sometimes the poems will just be bad. Occasionally, I am going to take time off. On rare occasions, the poems may not be appropriate, like the poem I wrote based on the Judges reading today. With that being said, I do not mind sharing poetry on occasion.

Today’s readings in the Revised Common Lectionary include Revelation 16:1-7 and Psalm 123. I will share the Revelation poem followed by the Psalm poem.

Pointless Bowl

A voice calls out from the temple:
“Pour out your bowl into the sea!”
So, I pour into brackish water.

A face watches from the shore.
Nothing moves, jumps, or tries to flee.
Eyes behold a sea of slaughter.

He wrote these things down at Patmos long ago.
He did not understand all of the things he did see.
This devastation came as humanity’s daughter.

Silenced Hope

My soul has had her fill.
Scriptural words make hope lie still.
Look at my heart and give dreams to me.
The only Source of light that I see,
Break apart contempt and pride.
Lead us to life–be our Guide.

Creative Commons License
This work by Robert Dean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.