“Psalm 15”

Sovereign Lord, our Lord, who may live with you?
And who will you allow within your house,
To come into your holy presence there
And stand before your glory and your face?

A person who has lived a blameless life
And never wandered from the righteous path,
Whose heart is full of truth and overflows
To speak no lie against his neighbor’s good,
Who holds those who love God in high esteem
But scorns the vile, who disregard God’s law,
With grave contempt born from his highest love,
Who makes no promise he will fail to keep,
Who seeks no profit in his neighbor’s pain
But gives and lends his money without cost,
Who judges justly and impartially,
Finding in favor of the innocent
And never looking at an offered bribe—

If anyone is righteous, he shall stand
And enter in God’s presence in his house,
Where nothing shall disturb his trusting rest.

The Anchorite by Teodor Axentowicz

This poem is the fifteenth in my series of verse paraphrases of the Psalms. I began this project in 2012, starting with the first Psalm, and have worked on one Psalm at a time; I began this poem soon after finishing my setting of Psalm 13, in November of last year, but didn’t finish it until earlier this month.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. The Kindle edition of my book is on sale this weekend. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Sublimation”

“Go, hang these just-washed sheets out on the line.
Though last night’s snowdrifts rise above your knees,
The creek out back is silent, frozen solid,
And underneath the morning’s brilliant blue
The lazy, bitter breeze will burn your cheek,
The sun shines bright, so ere the evening falls
These cloths, though sopping now, will be as dry
As Sinai’s sandy, scorching wilderness.”

In the same way, if God will smile on me
With the bright sunshine of his countenance,
Though I feel sin and failures weigh me down
Like leaden chains, or thick and soaking wool,
They’ll lift from me, and pass away like dew,
As light as down, and all shall work his praise.

March by Isaac Levitan
The opening phrases of this poem came to me last month when I suddenly found myself thinking about sublimation by which water and ice pass away on sunny days even in winter’s bitter cold, and also about the spiritual, psychological, or alchemical sense of the term. And I found the alternate voice I found for the first lines interesting, and was minded to continue. I finished the poem earlier this week.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Psalm 14”

The wicked person, in his senseless folly,
Says, to calm himself, there is no God.
And all are, like this, full of wicked deeds,
Their minds unfit and bent by love of sin;
There is not one who knows and does the right. Continue reading

“Magi”

Inspired by a star, they traveled far
To kneel before the cradle of a king,
But then went home, and dropped out of the tale.
For once astrology was on the mark:
Not only Judah’s rightful king, but theirs,
Lay in the poverty of Bethlehem,
But did they later heed his gospel’s call?

As I was thinking about what to write to mark Epiphany this year, some lines popped into my mind. They weren’t quite right (to use them as they were would have meant switching to a different meter for the rest), but as I thought them through and revised them the stanza above nearly wrote itself.

Three Philosophers by Giorgione

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Veni, Emmanuel”

O promised God-Among-Us, gentle Child,
Come to the nation, people, you have claimed
As your inheritance, now languishing
In bondage like unto, but worse than that
You brought them forth from long ago in might.
O hoped-for Savior even of the nations,
Rightful King, whose very word is law
Throughout the entire cosmos, earth and sky
And everywhere that light or space can run,
For you have made both wind and fire your servants—
Come, fulfil their longing; save us, Lord!

Adoration of the Shepherds by Cima da Conegliano

This is a verse expansion or meditation on the seventh and last of the O Antiphons; the first and second poems in this project appeared three and two weeks ago respectively, the third, fourth, and fifth last week, and the sixth on Thursday. This was the first one I began, as its first lines came together in my mind months ago, but when the idea for the project took shape and deadlines loomed I set it aside to work from the other Antiphons first.

I have a poem for Christmastide in progress, and may write one for Epiphany (we’ll see); after that, given my usual pace of writing, I expect to resume the schedule at most one poem every two weeks. (I am grateful to have been able to even manage that with any degree of consistency for any lengths of time this year.)

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Veni, Rex Gentium”

O Lord, of all Earth’s peoples rightful King,
You are the One Whom they have long desired,
The Capstone of the house that God is building,
From Whom all who truly live depend,
But over Whom all who are dead shall fall;
In you, the Father makes all nations one,
That you might rule the world in lasting peace.
Lord, you made humans from the very clay
And breathed your Spirit’s life into their mouths;
Come now, we pray, and save that race of men
That you created; make a lasting end
To war, ambition, hatred, strife, and sin,
And spread your rule in fact to every land. Continue reading

“A Welcome Remembered”

Ten years ago this month, I sat alone
In mere subsistence, hardly worth the price,
And dreary sadness I could not describe
Had it permitted me to think to try.
Then, almost like the Spirit bringing Truth,
You interrupted what I thought I knew
To introduce yourself and call me on,
Then poked and dragged me into better things.
For this outpouring of familial love,
Including me in fellowship and fun
As though we were at first what we became,
I will, to God and you, be ever grateful.

The Meal by Jan Steen

When I was reminded of the passage of time a couple of months ago (see my earlier-posted, but later-written, poem “Hodie decennis”, and my comments about it), I realized that this month (plus or minus a week or two) would mark ten years since I was somewhat forcibly invited to join a loud and boisterous group at dinner in the Calvin dining hall, a group in whose fellowship I enjoyed the remainder of my time there, and several of whom I still keep in as close contact with as I can. (Thank you!) So I began this poem in late August, producing approximately the above, and after some false starts (thinking it should have at least another few lines) gave it its final form in the middle of last month.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.