“Crowds”

“Hosanna! Savior, hail!” the masses cried
To greet their rightful King, though in their hearts
They shouted more to strain the chafing bonds
That long-oppressive Rome had laid on them
Than from true fealty to God’s anointed.

Not one week later, these same thronging crowds,
Incited by their leaders’ selfish plots
And stirred up into frenzied lust for blood,
Now clamored for their King to be condemned,
Abused, accursed, and put to gruesome death.

As he trudged through the streets, and up the hill,
Then hung in agony for his last hours,
The multitudes passed by to mock his end
Or stood to shout more scorn, but he was silent,
Suffering the bitter fate he chose
Without complaint, and even speaking grace
To those who tortured him before he died.

At last he breathed his final mortal breath
And cried his work’s completion to the sky;
An earthquake marked the opening of the way
That greater multitudes thereafter tread
Who have been, by his sufferings, brought to peace.

Photograph of Golgotha by an unknown photographer

I had long intended to write a poem for Good Friday, or at least for Holy Week, as in several of the last few years, but the first glimmers of an idea for the above only came to me less than a week ago.

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 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.

A Year In Verse Birthday Sale

A Year in Verse coverTomorrow, February 24, is my birthday. While I plan to post a poem, it is not (as it has been in some years) written or chosen specifically for this occasion, even though this is a “round-number birthday.” On the other hand, I am marking the occasion by offering the Kindle format of A Year in Verse, my (first and so far only) collection of my poetry, at a discount this weekend. Continue reading

“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.

“Incarnation” II

‘Twas God who first made Man in the beginning,
A perfect gardener for Eden’s peace:
Full-grown and mighty, wise yet innocent—
And yet, when faced with his first test, he failed,
And in his fall brought death to all that breathe.
(And so, in Adam’s fall, so sinned we all.)

Then God, to remedy our helpless state,
As he said he had planned from the beginning,
Stooped to earth and laid his rights aside,
And (marvellous to tell!) made himself Man,
Took up our flesh into his very being.
Born into a stable’s poverty
With all an infant’s needs and helplessness,
And no advantage that the world could see—
And yet, in hour of greatest trial, he cried,
“Your will, not mine,” and passed his final test,
And in his dying so put Death to death
And, rising, brought all who believe to life.

Nativity by Hans Baldung

I’ve been planning to write a poem for Christmas for months, and the idea for this one and the first few lines came to me a couple of weeks ago; I finished it last week. I could think of no title for it other than “Incarnation,” even though I’d already used that title so I decided to (as I’ve seen other poets do) reuse the title but mark this with a number to indicate which poem with the title it is.

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.