Thirty-third Anniversary

A poem in honor of my wife who has endured so much.

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

Last January scientists from the
Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory
Detected that a neutron star 
One and a half times the mass of our sun
Had crashed into a black hole.
Sixteen days later
And some billion light years away
It happened again
Sending gravity ripples
Along the warp and weft of space-time
Till it found us.

On June 9, you passed
Beyond the ER’s event horizon
Into another universe behind closed doors
Where COVID protocols would not let me enter.
You were charted and mapped,
Broken open by quantum complications
Which seemed to leave
The teams of physicists
Who tended you
Curious but
Unsurprised.

But I was stunned
As I came to orbit
The surgical waiting room
Where I circled with relative disbelief
The grave matters 
Of life and death, 
Children and parents,
Fear and the unknown.

You became a portal
To the cosmic reality that life
Which can seem to run so well
Is imperceptibly good
And fragile.

Sixteen days later, we emerged from
Your room’s capsule
On our Thirty-third Anniversary
Warped tight by trial
And weft arm in arm
To weave our way
Through the hospital hall.
And as we moved through that universe
No instruments detected the gratitude
Emitted in waves of thanksgiving
Nor perceived the prayer and praise.

© Randall Edwards 2021.

Love Is Not Strength

This poem is based on 1 Corinthians 13 and in honor and memory of a friend and friends.

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

Love is not strength
Though it is patient and kind.
Not that it doesn’t desire
Or burn hot as fire,
Yet it does not quit.
It takes a seat to the side, and there it will sit
Through time’s tides and troubles. It
Does what it can
And with you stands
Ready to help, paying no mind
To impatient demands.

Love does not shine.
It does not put me first or over other’s climb
Or grab with greed, yelling,
Mine. Mine. 
Mine!

Love cannot keep you from grief
But only makes sadness more certain
Only makes the inevitable hurting
Of goodbye sure.

Love cannot keep others from leaving.
It cannot make them stay.
Love is not enough
To keep any from going away.
It cannot keep.
But of those wrongs, the slights,
The thoughtless words said in jest, 
The deeds that were nothing near the best
One could be?
Love keeps no record of the wrong
Whether they happened today or time long
Since gone.

Love cannot heal. It cannot make anyone well.
If they are sick and dying,
It’s not like some spell
That can magically make them right.
Though if you love, love just may keep you awake
Night after night,
After night.

Love makes no demand.
It does not have to have its say
Which means that things may not go your way.
And so love oftentimes weeps
Or grieves what it may not keep.

Love takes no delight in the cruel
Or wicked things which others say or do,
But love rejoices in the true.
And when seeing the truth
Love bears all things,
And in so doing
Carries the weight of waiting
For the other to come ‘round
Or for the time when what was lost
Is at last found.

Love cannot keep, make, or do,
Yet it believes all things which means
He still believes in you.
Yes, love may be blind.
It cannot see the hope.
(Who hopes in what they can see?)
But with hope in faith
Love looks down the drive,
Expecting any moment to see you.
You, who were thought to be dead, alive
Walking up to the house.

Love is not strength
Though it endures all things:
Whether fearing the grave
Or the pain of death’s sting.
Love never fails,
Is on time, never late.
For it always hopes, always trusts,
And waits and waits
And waits…

© Randall Edwards 2021.
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).

Psalm 14: Ordinary Prayer

This is a paraphrase of Psalm 14 which you may read HERE.

In the inmost place of who they are,
They say, “There is no God.”
Not because they doubt,
But they imagine unthinkable things,
And do what no good person would think to do.

From the heights the Lord looks down on the children,
Looks for anyone who puts it together,
Who longing, seeks for the Other.

But they gaze at their navels,
Are turned in on themselves,
And not one does the good they’d hoped to.
It’s like they don’t even see
How the bad eats them up,
How they chew up others,
So consumed with themselves—
Just gorging on getting,
Never filled by the Lord.

There they are, feeding on fear,
Knowing something isn’t quite right,
You see, God is close to the just.

Go on, mock the plans of the poor,
But beware, it’s the Lord to Whom they run.

Now! Let it be now
That rescue comes from your Mount—
The rescue that rights and restores what was taken!
Let those who walk with a limp, rejoice.
Let the small people God loves, be glad.

© Randall Edwards 2020. This paraphrase of Psalm 14 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
Psalm 14

As for Light

Keaton Sapp has installed the eighth and ninth stations in his Stations of the Cross series. I will turn to his ninth at a later date, but I first want to focus on his eighth which is by far the most abstract of his pieces. It is simply a white page. Whether it is a scanned image of a white page or whether it actually reflects some shading is a mystery to me, but I think it’s brilliant.

The series of pen and ink drawings he has submitted thus far are intricate and detailed. This piece makes you think he’s forgotten something. Certainly, this is a mistake. This can’t be it. But it is.

This eighth piece, titled “The Rising,” is another example in which abstract art shows its worth. Looking at this piece begs the viewer to assign some meaning, to make some sense of it. The picture itself depicts the moment of resurrection. Here it is.

station 8

What was Keaton thinking? What can it possibly be saying about the resurrection? You need to sit on that question for yourself for a moment. It’s okay. I’ll wait….

Could the empty page signify the empty tomb? That’s a great thought. How can that be further expounded upon?

Could the brilliance of the stark, white page, portray the shining of resurrection and new creation? I think that’s good too. For me, that’s where I went.

White, does not seem like a color. As a child, using a white crayon on white paper seemed frustratingly futile. What was the point? The irony about white is that it is, in fact, every color. At some point though, I learned about “negative space.” Watercolorists make use of this effect often. Color doesn’t always need to be applied. It’s not as if a page needs filling, sometimes a minimalist stroke is the best way to communicate shape and light. I received Keaton’s latest piece in this way: not an empty page, but as a page filled with the brilliance of resurrection.

As for the poem, I’ve written in response to Keaton’s work, it is a quatrain and was inspired by Malcolm Guite‘s latest series of poems which his titled, Quarantine Quatrains you should check them out. A quatrain seemed like a good challenge, so here is mine in this season of social distancing.

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

There is a saying that goodness reads white,
That value and shade, whether stark or slight,
Makes more interesting the subject, more real
Than the purity of colorless light.

We think we can see, that we can see through,
But that’s false, whatever we claim to do;
To see through something is so that we may
See something beyond, what is real, what’s true.

As for light, we don’t see it as a thing,
But by it we see the bird on the wing
Whose colors give joy as he flies above;
It’s how we know, how we see everything.

White isn’t simply the absence of hue
It is all color: red, green, yellow, blue—
A spectral rainbow bound as one
Until split by prism or splashed by dew.

The black of night is when color is gone;
It is no thing, it’s singing without song;
As music fills silence, day fills the dark
It’s the good that illuminates the wrong.

Darkness sought to grasp, put the good to flight
By thinking itself something, by its might,
But on Sunday, into that nothing of a tomb
Love drove out darkness with fullness of Life.

© 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). Thank you.
Artwork: © Keaton Sapp 2020, “The Rising” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

What Now Can Be Done?

This is seventh in the series, “The Stations of the Cross” and takes its inspiration from artist, Keaton Sapp’s addition to the series which is titled, “The Earth Shook.”

Throughout the series Keaton has make use of the symbol of a fig tree to tell the story of Jesus’ passion. The Stations of the Cross, themselves are a pilgrimage of sorts in which one may walk the story of Jesus’ last hours. Both Keaton and I have take some liberties with the specific stations we have picked, but if you look back, I think you see how the series unfolds and aligns with the passion narrative in the gospels — particularly the Gospel of Matthew.

Here is Keaton’s seventh station which portrays the death of Jesus.

Seventh StationMatthew 27:51-61 is the scriptural reference for the death of Christ. It reads,

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The poem which I’ve written is as much about Keaton’s artwork as it is about Christ’s death. In this way, the poem may be described as ekphrastic. The type of tree which is called the Tree of Life in Genesis is not disclosed, but what if that tree were a fig tree?

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

When all was new, lovely, shimmering bright,
When the balmy breeze of evening
Blew and satisfied the care, full, keening
Of longing, when all was clear and light,
The man took from his wife the fruit of the tree
And pulled sin and death down on you an me.

They hid themselves there among the leaves;
Naked, they covered themselves for shame
And blushing in regret and shifting blame,
They took the Maker’s making, hiding with trees
The good, lush life which they’d been given—
Hid through subtlety, rather than shriven.

Into the woods and weeds they were sent
To live as exiles cast from that place
Cursing and crying for mercy and grace.
Bowed over, broken, by their sin bent,
They bear their burden: the pain of birth,
To hoe the hard dirt, sow, reap from the earth.

The Maker came to his children cast out
Sowing blessing, life, bearing fruit to them,
But they took: on a tree’s hill, murdered him,
And mocked his suff’ring with curses and shouts.
What now can be done? Can life bud with bloom?
Is any hope left, when hope’s sealed in a tomb?

© 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). Thank you.
Artwork: © Keaton Sapp 2020, “The Earth Shook” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.