This is a roundel based on Jeremiah 18:1-12.
In the poem I make use of two Bible illustrations: Jeremiah at the potter’s house and Jesus raising Lazarus. In the same manner that God formed man from the dust, Jesus announces the coming of new creation by raising one given over to the dust.
If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the roundel via the player below.
Said the clay to the hand who cut him out,
To the Potter who pulled him from decay
Smelling of earth from death wrapped about,
“I am not what I was,” said the clay.
Healing never came, for the Potter’s delay
Let me lie, untouched, harden, dry out;
Shaping without hands was his preferred way.
Time’s wheel spun four days when the mouth
Of the Potter spoke into where I lay
In my cold kiln cried, “Come forth!” with a shout.
And “I am, not what I was” said the clay.
In the congregation where I pastor, we are working through Luke’s gospel on Sunday mornings and walking with Jesus to Jerusalem. This week we are looking at Peter’s confession and Jesus’ call to discipleship in Luke 9.
Last night the question which Jesus asks in Luke 9.25 “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” struck me as a wisdom question, and mirrors the question of the teacher in Ecclesiastes who asked, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3).
Both the question of profit and and gain ask what is worth spending your life on. In this roundel I imagine one wrestling with the diminishing returns which always accompany idolatry and the question of whether the secondary goods which we pursue can become the primary means of our satisfaction and fulfillment.
If it’s helpful you may listen to me read the roundel via the player below.
By all the toil with which I pour Myself into work tending this soil, Spending life weeding, doing these chores, What does man gain by all his toil?
Make the most, I promised, let nothing spoil. “Over my dead body, I’ll not fail,” I swore, Yet what I seek, my work seems to foil.
I’ll not let it stand. I’ll settle the score; This irony of work makes my blood boil. Why do I get less, even though giving more? What does man gain by all his toil?
I really enjoy roundels, which is a poetic form that is concise and allows the writer to turn a phrase several ways.
In this roundel, I am working out my sadness and surprise at a review which a friend received on an e-commerce site from a book of poetry he’d written. “Not significant” as a review is just so…, wow. I was also greatly convicted about the times I’ve critiqued other’s creativity in ways that have shut them down rather than encourage and build them up. Here’s to repentance.
If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.
“Not significant”, two words typed clear and plain,
So austere and simple, not very clarificant
Is it odd that I can’t get it out of my brain?
Is one’s anything “Not significant”?
This critique, unengaged, is hardly edificant
Rather than help or try to explain
I imagine they stung, and were not, “not significant.”
But the spell you weave in your poetic quatrain
Is bread cast on waters, is gold, so mundificant!
For your words bless, make my crazy, sane
When the world says, you’re not significant.