Job’s Ending

Today’s is the last day for the November Poem a Day Challenge. Day 30’s prompt is appropriately, Endings.

I use it to wrap up a series of poems I’ve written over the past two months which have drawn their inspiration from the book of Job. This poems is based on Job 42.

You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

There was nothing left to do
But put my hand over my mouth,
Not speak another word.

You are right and strong,
And though I still believe
I did nothing wrong,
I know you did not either.

For now my eye sees you,
Sees all that you have done,
Perceives something you will do,
And it is too wonderful for me;
For not only can You do all things,
But you will do everything
That needs doing.

I see the work of your hands
And something of their stretched span,
Something more than getting what’s owed,
Someone in between,
In between merely getting the reaping 
Of that which was sowed,
And the strong arm which can
Work or hold or let go.

Somewhere between the span of those two hands
Is a heart that will be betrayed and broken—
Broken open in an effusion of blood
And water and love.
I had heard of You, but I have spoken
Of things I did not understand,
Things I did not know.

And though I still sit on this heap of ash,
And though I have more questions I could ask,
I am at peace, am comforted, and at rest.
For I am Yours, and You are mine,
And that is best.
Now, whatever good You send 
Will not be the first but only the rest
And resting in You shall never end.

© Randall Edwards 2021
Artwork: Ilya Repin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Day 25: Feasting

The prompt for Day 25’s November Poem a Day Challenge is “feasting.”

This sonnet is about the feast at the home of Mary and Martha recorded in Luke 10. I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25 where Jesus says that to the one who has, more will be given. I’ve also been thinking about the end of the book of Job when all his fortunes and family are restored as if that were a reward or a do-over. I’ve been a bit unsettled by the passages. I think I’ve found my way through them, and I try and articulate where I’ve landed in this sonnet.

I’ve been playing about with the word “rest,” and how in English “rest” can mean “to be comfortably at ease” or “to recover” as well as that which is “left over” as in “all the rest.” Have a look, and let me know if rings true.

What feast is the feast which brings no blame?
Where one is welcomed and not denied,
Where one is free to take time without shame
Of not doing more, sit, be satisfied?

Mary found such a feast at the feet
Of Jesus where she fed on his word;
But her sister scolded and could not keep
It together, complained she should help her.

But Jesus told her, Yes, Martha, many 
Things are needful, and you are worn, obsessed
By all these troubling tasks which are plenty,
But leave you angry, anxious, and stressed,
Mary has chosen the portion that’s best;
She will get the feast and have all the rest.

© Randall Edwards 2021
artwork: Diego Velázquez, Cristo en casa de Marta y María. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A Nonsense Poem

During the summers of my teen years, I would camp with my youth group at Carolina Hemlocks Campground. Our church’s beloved pastor grew up in the area, and he loved reading a collection of mountain tales collected by Richard Chase, titled, Grandfather Tales. One of the stories that was a particular favorite was a “hunting story” titled, “Skookin’ Huntin.” Hunting stories, like fishing stories, are themselves “tall” tales.

After college, I worked as a middle school drama teacher. (Yes, there’s always drama in middle school). I taught these in a unit with language arts and North Carolina history teachers. In fact, I told these stories in dialect so much that I would get marks on my teacher evaluations for my poor pronunciation. Or as I mighta said then, ‘proNOUNtsiashun.

November 28’s November Poem a Day Challenge is “nonsense.” I’ve taken “Skookin’ Huntin'” and worked it into a poem. This particular hunting story is a nonsense story because it is all backwards.

You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

I’ve travelled this world all over:
House to barn, down to the gate,
Upstairs, downstairs like a rover
Until true love changed my fate.

Rode my mare to a valley town
That sat way up on a hill
Where little roast pigs ran around
Squealing, “Who’ll eat me? Who will?”

Come to a house made of cornbread—
Its sides, shingled with flapjacks,
Knocked on the woman with my head
The door swung and knocked me back.

That mean old woman offered me
A glass of bread and a penny.
“No thank you Ma’am, if you please”
Told her, “I just had any!”

Went and looked for my brother’s place;
A house that’s easy to find,
Sits alone in an empty space
With fifty like it beside.

A house high up, there down below,
A log cabin made o’ brick,
Where in a field he’d scratch and hoe
The corn he’d fished from the crick.

That’s when I saw Jenny, my love,
I knew she must of missed me.
Nailed the door down and windows up;
So I strowed in through the chimney.

Directly, I throw’d my hat on the fire,
Thoughtfully stirred up the bed,
I sat right close, her eyes admire
s’Far from her as I could get.

We played cards (some say it’s a sin).
She drawed hearts, me diamond’s love
‘Bout that time her old man come in,
And he drawed himself a club.

So I run’d home, run’d out a there,
Said, “I won’t see you never;
The old grey mare that’s mine, is yours;
I’ll be back for it forever.”

That very day life changed for me
The girl I’d chased ‘round the bend?
One I thought I was chasing? She?
Finally, caught me in the end.

after “Skookin’ Huntin’, Richard Chase, Grandfather Tales: American-English Folk Tales (1948) (Richard Chase, February 15, 1904 – February 1988). Alt. Randall Edwards 2021

Day 4: Transition

(transiens) “passing over or away,” present participle of transire “cross over, go over, pass over, hasten over, pass away,” from trans “across, beyond” (see trans-) + ire “to go” (from PIE root *ei- “to go”). Meaning “passing through a place without staying”

I’m catching up a bit on the November Poem a Day Challenge.

“Transition,” to me, does not sound appealing;
It reminds me of friends who have gone or are leaving,
It reminds me too much of the lingering pain
Of those whom I love and am grieving.

Transition has too often been used to describe
My friends who lie in beds hospitalized,
Whom I visit with, counsel, and pray;
But who in the end, transition and die.

“Transition” speaks of a lightness of being
That life is received not grabbed for keeping,
Is held with palms open till it goes away,
Billows in fullness but like a cloud, fleeting.

I long for the Time when transition goes away
And Time says, No hurry. Have a seat. Stay.

© Randall Edwards 2021.

Foggy

Today’s Poetry Pub prompt for the November Poem a Day Challenge is “foggy.” Since today is the 53rd Anniversary of the Farmington Mining Disaster, I chose to combine the two.

Sometimes a poem doesn’t get to where you want it, but because of the moment, you want to say something and so you do. Sometimes this is ill-advised. Other times, you feel you need to speak and trust that it will be enough.

[Note: I’ve continued to rework the piece and have updated it to the most current revision.]

This elegy is in honor of seventy-eight miners who died on this day in 1968 and their families and the community who still grieve their loss and the tragedy. You can read more about the disaster HERE. There is a longer YouTube video of an eyewitness account at the bottom of this post.

You listen to me read the poem via the player below.

Consul Number 9
There were ninety-nine miners who tried
In the Consol Number 9
To earn their wage, punch the clock,
Walk the slope, pick the rock,
Descend into the invisible fog
Released by the pile of Gog.*
Ninety-nine miners who worked inside
The Consol Number 9.

On the 20th day of November
The cold and the damp and the weather
Pushed the air down
To hang heavy inside
The Consol Number 9.

A blast shook the earth
As the third shift worked
Ignited the depths of the mine,
Trapped seventy-eight miners,
Farmington’s pride,
In the Consol Number 9.

Rescuers searched while their families prayed
Only 21 made it alive.
For a week they worked trying to find
The miners who were trapped, inside
Trapped inside but trapped alive,**
In the Consul Number 9.

Llewellyn belched a hellish smog ***
It filled the valley with fog.
To stop the fire, they sealed the mine
With the seventy-eight miners inside
The Fathers and brothers, 
Farmington’s pride,
In the Consol Number 9.

To this day, the families remember
That cold 20th day of November
The seventy-eight miners we worked beside,
The nineteen whom we never did find,
Our friends, our fathers, the brothers who died
In the Consol Number 9.

*A mine’s Gog Pile is the pile of rock refuse which may release hazardous methane gas.
** Though some held on to hope that more miners would be rescued, after the initials blasts, not many believed any could've survived.
*** The Llewellyn is the mine shaft where the explosion exited.
An Elegy for those lost in the Farmington Mining Disaster

You can view a personal account of the disaster.