The Grey and Green

The Grey and Green

The shorter period of Ordinary Time in winter between Epiphany and Lent is a season which I cannot quite get my head and heart around. It seems both more melancholy and more yearning. Will spring really come or will winter go on? February 2, whether it’s marked as Candlemas or Groundhog Day, speaks to the longing for more light and the end of winter. The reductionism of the religionists who say, that Christian feasts are only the reappropriation of pagan holidays forget that these people didn’t think themselves into living in the world. Rather they lived in the world (the same one in which we live I might add), which called forth the realities of living in that world. Whoever you are, living through late winter in the Northern Hemisphere is hard.

Late winter is when the cold
Colors with the hue of blue,
Slate and grey,
Throughout the day.

And the stark scratch of limb and
Tree’s branch which stretch out like hands,
Stretch from earth
In frozen reach.

Here in our Ordinary
Time, we dress the altar in
The green of
Cedar and pine.

What lies beneath the ice, snow,
What we do not see but know:
Life goes on
When others leave.

And that is hard. Hard and cold
As the frozen earth is old,
Compacted
By Time’s wait.

Joy lies dormant underneath
Awaits, till the cry, Wake! Rise!
Calls forth bloom
And the frozen, flower.

© Randall Edwards 2020.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Robbie Burns Night

Robbie Burns Night

We’re not having dinner tonight that “jaups in luggies” but neither are we having haggis. Nevertheless, we salute the rugged haggis fed who have and are gathering tonight in memory of Robbie Burnes

For you lovers of fricassees, olio, or ragout, a part of every Robert Burns Diner is the recitation of Burn’s poem, “Address to the Haggis,” which I have been reciting constantly for a week, much to my family’s dismay — though I think it’s growing on them.

It probably won’t be too helpful, but you may listen to me attempt to recite the poem via the player below with my humble apologies for butchering the Scots dialect.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang ‘s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Epiphany Snow

Epiphany Snow

This sonnet is for Epiphany. It draws its inspiration from T.S. Eliot’s, “Journey of the Magi” and recalls an Epiphany a couple of years ago when here in the South, we got a special gift: snow.

It was worse for them, a cold, hard coming
Through the world’s wild winter waste wandering;
With camels and servants grumbling, running
Off, it must’ve seemed their mission was found’ring,
And in the dark no less, this hard going
Chasing some sacred, celestial shining
Leaning into the west where the blowing
Snow and king resisted their divining.

Eon’s later I watch this Epiphany’s snowing;
Christmas has past, so too carol singing,
Waiting on spring? It’ll be hard going
To body forth through this winter’s keening.

But we come home as they when we kneeling,
Give all to the homeless One, who came healing.

© Randy Edwards 2020.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

A Voice Loudly Cries

A Voice Loudly Cries

This sonnet is based on Matthew 2:16-18. There have been many Herods who have stood in opposition to the King of kings, and these tyrants use many weapons. However, the vulnerable are the ones who always pay, and the most vulnerable are the children.

This is the world where every king chances

To control and do what they can to win,

Where choice vindicates all circumstances,

Where the cost of that choice pays with children.

Oppressors force marriage to dominate,

Defile with sex, make the victim a villain,

Use rape to terrorize, humiliate,

And the price that is paid? Paid by children.

A voice heard in Ramah, she loudly cries:

Rachel lamenting for all her children
As a king’s arm kills till ev’ry child dies,

Ev’ry parent’s arm emptied, ev’ry grave filled in.

Rachel, unconsoled shall weep for her lost

Until they return, and the king’s arms crossed.

© Randall Edwards 2018
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Nativity

The Nativity

This is the final poem in a series for Grace Kernersville’s Jesse Tree project. The poems in the series are attempts at ekphrasis. A gifted artist in the congregation in which I pastor have provided abstract paintings from which the poems have derived their inspiration. This painting is entitled, The Nativity.  Have a look at the painting, How do you read it?The Nativity Here’s my reading of the painting in poetic form.

Gathered ‘round the manger, the shepherds there
Had each struggled through their own unbelief—
Groping through this world’s dank and dingy air,
Jaded by dejection, wearied by grief,

But now they are bathed in color and light
Where, with this mother, they behold, ponder
The tidings foretold by angels that night.
Un-wintered by joy and warmed with wonder:

What Grace gathers us to this treasured place?
Is salvation created, swaddled here?
Are we beholding the look of Love’s face?
Is desire answered in the cry we hear?

Behold Emmanuel, David’s Lord and Key;
New life is come from the stump of Jesse’s tree!

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.
artwork: © Adah Freeman 2019, “The Gentle Shepherd” acrylic on canvas. All Rights Reserved.

God with Us

God with Us

The antiphon for December 23 is the last and is “O Emmanuel.” The antiphon reads, ”O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.”

It continues to be, for me, the most amazing news that God would ‘rend the heavens and come down’ in order to show the full length of his love. I am a pretty fearful person, and knowing (sometimes more, oftentimes less) that God is with us, is a particular comfort.

One more day…

Far, far away is any king from me;
Beyond his castle’s bolstered gates and doors
His ear, taken with many other pleas—
Greater than my economy and wars.

Yet I hope, and hope is not one if seen.
So say the preachers whom I’ve often heard;
I try to hope, to trust, try to believe
But life’s cares choke and hide his promise-word.

If only help would come, bring salvation
A help with heart, who keeps, safe to lean upon—
Strong, to bear the hope of every nation,
Hold in loving arms till all fear is gone.

Hope has come, lies swaddled in a stable:
God-with-us, loves us, is willing, able.

© Randall Edwards 2016
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.

The Gentle Shepherd

The Gentle Shepherd

The last in Grace Kernersville’s Advent series, The Jesse Tree is The Gentle Shepherd. A theme which flows from King David’s Psalm 23 through the prophets culminates in Jesus’ declaration in John 10, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

In this series, I write ekphrastic poems which find their primary inspiration from Adah Freeman’s paintings are also informed by the scriptures themselves. The main passage from which both Adah and I started was Psalm 23.  Keeping in mind the psalm, look or read the painting below. What do you see? Once you’ve had a moment reading the work for yourself, see my sonnet below and judge whether I read it well.

IMG_4023

Here I face the darkest darkness, the Valley defile
Where I can’t see in, can’t see the end. Will
It last feet or will it go on for a mile or miles?
Will I lie down again or will those who kill
Drive me from the waters, the valley green?
Will I ever walk beside them? Will he,
My shepherd, abide? Walk with me, lead,
With rod and staff comfort and protect me?

The shepherd is gentle as one of his own,
But his meekness hides a leonine mane;
From his gold fleece blessing follows, is blown
And sparkles like the sequins of his train.

The Lion became a Lamb to pay the full price,
And finding his flock, he laid down his life.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.
Artwork: © Adah Freeman 2019, “The Gentle Shepherd” acrylic on canvas. All Rights Reserved.