The Seed

The Seed

Here is a sonnet about what happens when one reads poetry.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Like seed broadcast by a sower’s throw
Are the words which poets scatter around,
And those words, now dormant, will only grow
When received by ears which hear and resound
Their meaning, the wonder, through turn of phrase,
By rhyme and cadence, the incantation
Which breaks through as one freed from a maze
Into seeing through imagination.

I see your brow furrow. Till you look again
At these words which are flung across your way;
As you work your plot, try to comprehend
The worries which germinate through your day.
Stopped in this moment, amazed, you’re the ground
Who sprouts into smile by words which you’ve found.

© Randall Edwards 2017
artwork: James Tissot, The Sower, 1886 and 1894, Medium: opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum,

Our Strength

Our Strength

This is another poem based upon Psalm 126 which is a Song of Ascent.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

Our strength is not in “being upbeat”.
Is not our performance record
It’s not our popularity, being greeted on the street
We are not our own, we aren’t our own lord.

Our strength is not our authenticity
Nor our capable application
Not in being efficient, exemplars of productivity.
We stand on a firmer foundation.

We are not strong because we know
Whats to know, posses sophistry’s acumen
We are the tearful who in weeping sow
Who know what it means to be fully human.

Our strength is not in the people like us,
Who like us or who like to fight
We don’t fight to win, to be self-righteous
We fight, to be sincere, walk humbly, upright.

Our strength is not that our families are better
That our marriages and children are enviable
Meeting expectations right down to the letter
Never experiencing any trouble.

Our confidence is not because our pantries are well-stocked
Because our 401Ks are properly diversified
Our hope is not that our comfort in retirement
Will allow shell-seeking at some sunny seaside.

The joy of the Lord, His joy is our strength!
Even so Lord, restore our fortunes!
Make us fruitful! Give us faith to go to any length
Be our sole solace. Be our living portion.

© Randall Edwards 2017
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: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.

Not Use

Not Use

A roundel regarding a rejection letter received from a journal for a recent poetry submission.

If helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

“Not use”, your note, written back to me
On my poem by which I deduce
That your statement of merit, impartial decree
Means my words are unwanted, no use.

This, my rejection; you mean no abuse.
You’re being efficient not crappy,
Not poetic, just clear, not abstruse.

But these words keep coming, won’t let me be—
Whisper in rhymes, with phrases seduce
To turn the lock, use imagination’s key,
I try to resist, but it’s no use.

© Randall Edwards 2017

What End?

What End?

Over the past several months I have been working through a collection of psalms in the Old Testament’s book of Psalms called the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). This collection of songs is believed to have been sung by pilgrims as they traveled to Jerusalem for the great Jewish festivals.

The Songs of Ascent are more than a collection of songs, they are a geography of the pilgrim’s walk of faith to God. In these psalms we hear about the pitfalls and dangers as well as the necessary encouragement and motivation to make and finish such a journey.

Psalm 132 is the longest of the Songs of Ascent and speaks to us of what is needed to make the last push to the finish. A journey of 100 miles can just as easily be forsaken in the last mile and is all the more pitiable when that journey is given up within sight of the finish. I know that pitifulness.

Psalm 132 reminds the pilgrim that the journey which they are making, this last climb through Judea up to Jerusalem, was one which the Lord has made too if only symbolically through the presence of the ark of the covenant. David vowed to bring the ark to a resting place among the people of God in Jerusalem; this is the destination of the Old Testament pilgrim: the Temple which housed the ark.

As the psalm reminds us of the vow which David made, the search for the ark which had fallen into obscurity, David’s desire to see the Lord’s worship honored even as he danced among the procession, and the promise which the Lord made to David and his descendants, we are reminded of the reward of faithful obedience.

For the pilgrim on pilgrimage, the joy at the end is not that the journey is over. The pilgrim’s joy breaks into view when they see that the God whom they have sought and pursued has, in fact, come to them.

This sonnet imagines the pilgrimage of one who, like the psalmist of Psalm 120, has come to his senses and gone to God. However, the dangers of pilgrimage waylay him near the finish. Remembering the kindnesses shown and the hope of fulfillment, he is persuaded to “arise”. The prodigal pilgrim makes the final push to the finish to find that “while he was still a long way off his father…”.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Here at the finish, the way is steep;
Having come so far, the end now in sight;
The vows made at dawn, when refreshed by sleep,
Seem cynically foolish in the fading light.
Lost in worries weeds, the tangle of cares
Trip me with cries to forget the vow,
Tempt me with lies by which comfort ensnares,
Falling, I slip into despondency’s slough.

A call to arise calls me from the end
And recalls to mind the kind offers made;
I stand, and stumbling, the last hill ascend
To behold the blessing for which I’d prayed.
The fullness sought in leaving now I see:
The father whom I left, running to me.

© Randall Edwards 2017
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.
artwork: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.

Dear Heart

Dear Heart

This sonnet is a second based upon Psalm 131 and is a word of comfort or a moment of self-talk over and against all the words, phrases, and speaking which often rolls through one’s thought-life. In the South, “dear heart” can be spoken in a condescending fashion much like it’s sister expression, “Bless your heart…”. Though I may reserve that tone for reading this to my own self, it is not intended that others read it that way.

Also, I do not generally make use of the archaic, “thou”, “thine”, and “thy”. However, in this case it seems to me there something lost of the intimacy of a distinguished 2nd person personal pronoun in our common usage today. If possible, don’t hear a “formal” address, but rather words of intimacy.

Psalm 131 reads,

1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

If helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

for PBP on October 6

Dear heart, do not lift thine eyes to the hills
Where control and pleasure are wound as one,
But feed on grace, the daily bread which fills,
Lest thou be left empty, thy life undone.
Dear soul, be calm, do not churn in thy breast
Fret not the drought, nor the flood of keening
Trust as a child who on his mother rests,
Patiently endure thy rooting soul’s weaning.
Dear child, rest thy head on shoulders which bore
The rough beam upon which hung all thy fears,
Be held by arms which opened wide the door,
And the hands which took thy sin, wipes thy tears.
O Israel, put thy hope in the Lord
Rest in Him this day and forever more.

© Randall Edwards 2017
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.
artwork: Dora Hitz (1856–1924), Motherhood. The image is from the 1905 print after page of “Women Painters of the World, from the Time of Caterina Vigri, 1413-1463, to Rosa Bonheur and the Present Day”, by Walter Shaw Sparrow, from The Art and Life Library, Hodder & Stoughton, 27 Paternoster Row, London.

What Rest?

What Rest?

The Songs of Ascent are a collection of pilgrim songs — songs sung by those on the road who are journeying to God. These psalms contain encouragement and counsel for the pilgrim, and like a geographer, these songs describe the lay of the land of a pilgrim’s world.

The lesson which the psalmist is seeking to teach his fellow travelers is that faith in God and our hope in Him is more than what He can do for us in the moment. God can be trusted, and the pilgrim must learn to wait on Him. This trust and peace is likened to that of the weaned child who has learned to trust its mother though she no longer offers the same comforts she once did. Spurgeon writes, “It is a blessed mark of growth out of spiritual infancy when we can forego the joys which once appeared to be essential, and can find our solace in him who denies them to us.”

Psalm 131 reads,

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

In seeking to flesh out these sonnets it has been helpful to imagine the psalms working out in the lives of others. Over and over again, the lives of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus capture my imagination. The sonnet below is an imagining of Martha’s experience and concern about many thing, Mary’s chasing what is better, and the Lord’s invitation to Martha to calm and quiet her soul.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Concerned and worried about many things:
The work which needs doing, (I carry and bear)
The burden of healing, my sibling’s welfare,
Rests on my shoulders, on what my hand brings.
When He came I was filled with greater care:
For our guest’s comfort and our saving face
Among those who thought our table our place
Was sparse in joy and our graciousness spare.
And my worry broke in desperation,
“Master!” with heat and hurt, as a prayer
“Tell her to help, relieve my frustration
Can’t she see? Do something? In the work share?”
“Martha, she’s working by resting in me
Sit here also, and you too shall be free.”

© Randall Edwards 2017
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.
artwork: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.

Good Grief

Good Grief

Here’s an example of how other’s words are like seeds which find their way into your imagination and grow and bear fruit — in this case a poem.

Tish Harrison Warren, writes of her season of lament and grief HERE. In her post she says “grief is like sand”. That is a great metaphor and line. It found its place in my imagination and sprouted into this poem which I had not written as, but to no one’s surprise, was actually a sonnet.

The sonnet is entitled, Good Grief. If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Grief is like sand; it finds its way into
All around, underneath, through and through;
It gets in my shoes, the stuff of my day;
I vacuum, clean but to my dismay
It’s followed me on my vacation.
It stalks my way to each destination;
Uninvited, it sets an ambush of tears.
Botheration, this sand, it gets in my drawers–
Into my chest which holds and stores
The feelings I don’t often wear.
Grief opens doors when we, sadness share
The heart of our loss, worries, and cares
Grief, though not a good, is yet a sign
Of love that was and yet remains mine.

© Randall Edwards 2017
artwork: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), St. John Comforting the Virgin at the Foot of the Cross (After the Ninth Hour), 1862; pencil and watercolour with bodycolour and gum arabic on paper laid on linen