Your Hand

This poem draws its inspiration from Psalm 139. You may listen to me read the poem via the

player below.

 Even there your hand,
 The hand which you stretched out to deliver me,
 The hand by which you led your people through the sea
 And with which you take our hand
 And as a shepherd lead,
 That hand is the same hand 
 With which you took hers
 As she lay upon her bed
 Even though her father’s friends had said,
 ‘It’s no use, she’s already dead.’
 But you clasped her hand in yours,
 And without an audience, behind closed doors,
 You tenderly tugged and said,
 ‘Sweetie, time to get up’
 As if it were just another morning.

 Those hands are the hands with which
 You wiped your own tears as you wept 
 At your friend’s tomb 
 Though you said he only slept.

 And with those hands, you took the beam
 And with them carried it through the din
 Of Jerusalem’s cries and shouts
 And bore with it the weight of my sin;
 To that wood, they nailed
 Your hand even as they mocked and hailed
 You King of the Jews,
 And in your exaltation
 Said your kingdom had failed.

 And with your hand which you raised to you mouth
 You called the disciples from the shore
 You hailed them with a shout
 To cast our nets on the other side
 Of the boat.

 That hand beckoned Peter again from the sea
 And asked again whether of fish or men
 Would he rather a fisher be,
 Entreating three times,
 And through Peter ask me,
 Do you love me?
 Do you love me?
 Do you love me?
 More than these?

 That hand is the hand by which 
 You take mine in hand
 Whether I ascend to heaven, 
 Mount on wings,
 Or make my bed in the grave 
 With those who have died;
 Whether I dwell in the utmost part of the sea
 Even there your hand shall guide,
 Your hand shall take,
 Your right hand lead
 And hold 
 Me.
 

 © Randall Edwards 2021

Seeds of Grace

A poem about the birds outside my office window.

 A family of juncos
 Fly and flit though the branches
 Of a crepe myrtle outside my window…
 Up and down from limb to limb
 Then limb to ground.
 And back up and around.

 For some reason, they don’t feed at the feeder
 But prefer to take the seeds
 That others knock down,
 What others don’t seem to want or need.

 If I had my choice, I’d be
 A feeder bird.
 I’d rather be perched high and served
 By the source. 
 And for that matter
 Served first, of course.
 Not with other’s seconds
 Which they’ve scattered ‘round
 Spilled, and left lying on the ground.

 But then, what else are seeds but grace?
 And grace doesn’t just hang in mid-air
 Or float in space
 But it falls from above
 Is the overflow of Love
 That spills and feeds 
 In seconds of surprise,
 In a moment, in a place--
 Through a kind word,
 And a smiling face.

 © Randall Edwards 2021

Death and Dust

A poem for Ash Wednesday.

I went to burn the palm fronds
For the Ash Wednesday service,
But when I looked, there weren’t any.

Remember?
There were no palms last spring,
Nor were there bodies in this building.
Here I am left holding the bag
Of one more thing taken away
By this year’s passion play.

“Shake it off,” I tell myself.
Don’t let it take hold
The one-more-thing of thousands
Of smears imposed
In marks of death and dust
Streaked with lines of tears
By COVID’S cold finger.

And with that push,
I set out again to forsake despair
That I might arrive again at
Resurrection.

© Randall Edwards 2021

Surprised as Betjeman

Since the beginning of the pandemic. My wife and I have been watching Malcolm Guite’s YouTube Channel in which he offers what he calls “Spells in the Library.” These “spells” are the incantations of poetry and words found in the collections of books in his library. We find these weekly installments enchanting.

Earlier this week he posted a piece on John Betjeman. I have posted it below. It’s delightful.

Now, as I was beginning to watch this I was caught by his opening introduction. Obviously he is speaking extemporary, yet I found his words remarkably poetic. Poets can do this sometimes.

I believe it was Ruth Pitter who took words which C.S. Lewis penned or spoke and turned them into a poem. She said, if I remember this correctly, that she had to do little or no altering of the words to make the poem. Lewis had been so steeped in verse, that poetry was the tea which was brewed through his words. I think Dr. Guite is of that same kind.

At any rate, I took his words and made a poem. The first half or so are the words (almost verbatim) by which he introduces his Spell in the Library on Betjeman. It seemed I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I wrote something down.

At any rate, if any of this is worthy, it is to the credit of Dr Guite. If any of it unworthy, the fault is mine.

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

“Chaos has come again,” as Othello says.
 I’ve got this Betjeman, (Don’t you see?)
 Where it’s perched precariously,
 Where it really shouldn’t be;
 This book, Betjeman’s Britain,
 Because I took it out of the shelf,
 And can’t actually…
 I can’t remember…
 I can’t find the gap for it myself.
 So you can see, 
 All the other books 
 That are on their sides,
 Books that, 
 They have a home to go to,
 But I can’t…
 They can’t
 Find their way home
 At the moment.

 We all, like volumes
 Lie on our sides 
 Where we shouldn’t be.
 We cannot find
 The gap where we fit—
 Where we slide
 In perfectly
 That place
 Snug up against another’s side—
 Cozy, upright, ready to be read,
 Where we sit.
 And we wait for the Reader
 Who gives life to the dead
 Who has gone before us 
 Who has made for us the best
 Place where we might abide and rest.
 
 But chaos has come again.
 We can’t…I can’t…they can’t 
 Find their way home 
 Though they have a home to go to.
 Here we sit or lie;
 Here we wait until we do
 Find our way back and into
 That gap, the place our Reader choose.
 
 One day, in a moment,
 He will take us up and read,
 And by His voice blow the leaves
 Of these open pages, and with life breathe
 And speak us with words into being.
 We shall rise. We shall find our place
 Straight-spined, standing tall, awash
 In the grace of the Spoken Word
 Surprised as Betjeman
 Transfigured.

O Lord

The second of the O Antiphons is O Lord, or Adonai. The Antiphon continues the unfolding hope for redemption. Followed by Wisdom, this Antiphon speaks of the Lord’s appearing to Moses and His presence and self-revelation through the glory cloud and the Law which we read about in the book of Exodus. Even though the Lord delivered Israel from slavery with an outstretched arm (Exodus 6:6), the Lord would again and again need to lay bar his holy arm in order to save his people. We tend, I think, to first imagine the Lord’s outstretched arm as one that is bared in order to strike. But the gospel show us otherwise. In this way, John in his gospel (echoing Isaiah) asks, “to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

In this installment, artist Sarah Stone provides a beautiful interpretation of the sonnet I’ve written and Ed Pilkington reads the poem. You may read, see, and hear via the video below.

O Lord (O Adonai)
 
December 18
“O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.”
 
From Sinai's bush which blazed in holy fire
You answered, “I AM!”, gave Moses your name.
And promised your arm would reach, never tire
’Til you saved your son from slav’ry and shame.

And even while gath’ring the bread sent each day
Sheltered beneath Sinai’s thundering peak,
The people yet complain, reject, and stray
From HIM WHO IS, deliv’er of the weak.

O Lord, redeem! My arms cannot bear
The doing demands of performance lords,
Nor can avoid the tangle of sin’s snare
I'm trapped by desire, cupidity’s cords.

Baring his arm I AM reached to the lost
By taking the wood of manger and cross.