That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

Originally posted at Commonweal Magazine –

Descending Theology: The Crucifixion

by Mary Karr

To be crucified is first to lie down 
on a shaved tree, and then to have oafs stretch you out 
on a crossbar as if for flight, then thick spikes
      fix you into place.

Once the cross pops up and the pole stob 
sinks vertically in an earth hole perhaps 
at an awkward list, what then can you blame for hurt
      but your own self’s burden?

You’re not the figurehead on a ship. You’re not 
flying anywhere, and no one’s coming to hug you. 
You hang like that, a sack of flesh with the hard
      trinity of nails holding you into place.

Thus hung, your ribcage struggles up 
to breathe until you suffocate, give up the ghost. 
If God permits this, one wonders how 
      this twirling earth

manages to navigate the gravities and star tugs. 
Or if some less than loving watcher 
watches us scuttle across the boneyard greens
      under which worms

seethe and the front jaws of beetles 
eventually clasp toward the flesh of every beloved. 
The man on the cross under massed thunderheads feels
      his soul leak away,

then surge. Some windy authority lures him higher 
till an unseen tear in the sky’s membrane is rent, 
and he’s streaming light, snatched back, drawn close,
      so all loneliness ends.

An Embarrassment by Wendell Berry

“Do you want to ask
the blessing?”

“No. If you do,
go ahead.”

He went ahead:
his prayer dressed up

in Sunday clothes
rose a few feet

and dropped with a soft

If a lonely soul
did ever cry out

in company its true
outcry to God,

it would be as though
at a sedate party
a man suddenly
removed his clothes

and took his wife
passionately into his arms.

Click through to hear it read.

"An Embarrassment” by Wendell Berry from Leavings. © Counterpoint, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Mary Magdalene Mistakes the Gardener

Genesis 3John 20

Listen, I’m no mad woman. I’ve been among you,
Reclined at your tables, you’ve broken my bread
you dolts. It’s true:
I entered the garden’s east gate and
ducked the bedolach boughs twisting in sinuous bark-lynch;
those timbers ice-broken over winter.
The footpath tangled in briars,
and there I caught my foot and
fell and tore my palms in the thorns that
received me.
I labored to lift me from the weeds
impish and clawing, gnawing
like teeth when the
gardener lifted me to these broken trees.
Then I regained my feet and clutched my bleeding hands
in the open limb wounds, blackening
with sap
invigorated by Spring.
The scent and tack
of bdellium gum flexing,
sealing my abrasions
sediment settling in finger-crease.
All I touched bears my dirtprint still.
See, there’s handprints on my knees
when I leaned to rest. There must
be handprints on his robes when
I groped at him to stay.
See, even now by the lamps of our dinner,
here in the coated creases of my hands
is the earth from which we draw this bread.
Here are the thorns and thistles.
Red and infected are the prints that bear them.
In the sweat of my face you can see
how I hid the tears of my weeping
and the streak where he wiped them away. 

Adventures in New Testament Greek: Nous


You could almost think the word synonymous    
with mind, given our so far narrow   
history, and the excessive esteem

in which we have been led to hold what is,   
in this case, our rightly designated   
nervous systems. Little wonder then

that some presume the mind itself both part   
and parcel of the person, the very seat   
of soul and, lately, crucible for a host

of chemical incentives—combinations
of which can pretty much answer for most   
of our habits and for our affections.

When even the handy lexicon cannot   
quite place the nous as anything beyond   
one rustic ancestor of reason, you might

be satisfied to trouble the odd term   
no further—and so would fail to find   
your way to it, most fruitful faculty

untried. Dormant in its roaring cave,
the heart’s intellective aptitude grows dim,   
unless you find a way to wake it. So,

let’s try something, even now. Even as   
you tend these lines, attend for a moment   
to your breath as you draw it in: regard

the breath’s cool descent, a stream from mouth   
to throat to the furnace of the heart.   
Observe that queer, cool confluence of breath

and blood, and do your thinking there.

Scott Cairns, “Adventures in New Testament Greek: Nous” from Philokalia: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Scott Cairns. Reprinted without the permission of Zoo Press. Source: Philokalia: New and Selected Poems (Zoo Press, 2002)

Advent Sonnet #2 – Romans 1

Romans 1:3-4

O Messiah, Your prism mysteries
Have scattered the light ‘cross my feeble eyes.
In my blinking, I’ve seen the strange stories
Of how one man born can be fathered twice.

Son of Man, son of Adam, David’s son:
Death spread to all men because we all sinned.
You, grafted in, donned our skin to be undone
Like the oven-fired grasses just de-stemmed.

Son of God, declared by resurrection:
The Glory of Your heavenly Father
Breathed new life into fallen creation
With the same Spirit that hovered o’er waters.

By that Spirit do we call out, “Father!”,
Having been dead, now raised His sons and daughters.

From the Notebook:

Something I started, but haven’t been able to finish:

America reclines in the shadows
Stoking coals to keep off oncoming night
Oh, but a few more hours til my eyelids burn;
Til they droop from the dry
And I must finally admit sleep
Submit to sleep
After dozing in my chair
After waking with a broken posture
And a gap in my memory.

Tonight is the longest night of the year;
The round belly of the earth
Leans back the furthest
And groans the heartiest laugh
On this night.
America reclines in shadows
Gazing at the coals.

The too green log whistles in the heat
While I crumple newspapers to fuel
The flames that refuse to take.
Facts and facts and facts and facts
Gathered in a grey-matter basket of butter fats,
Nerves, and lightning, and smoke smelling fingers
And front-loaded statements declaring
What is imperative,
Interrogating what is declared.

I’m trying to make sense
As the words speak into smoke
And ha-choo up the flue
rising as incense to the shadows
On this night. 

– 21 December 2009