Nineteen Years Old

Nineteen Years Old

Am I Beautiful?

How ruinous a triumph, though,
To wear for honor on my head
(However gold the hair might be)
A laurel crown of alien sorrow –
Human hearts, indiscriminately bled,
Bruised, and cracked. Not for me!
Nor beauty, if it brings such woe.

And yet, if beauty be not mine
Reserve me grace, O Lord,
To guard me and to keep apart
My undefiled and sacred shrine
Not for the pleasure of the horde
But just to hallow one great heart.
Beauty’s vain – the sovereignty to wait, divine.

Untitled

In this poem I see a myself as a girl who has begun to give up on herself in dangerous ways. I see the feeling that slavish behavior is the key to masculine respect and love; that a noble man would accept such treatment; and a confusion, unsuspected by me at the time, between reverence and idolatry.

The lady nods
The lady says
that all the gods
and goddesses
with marble heads
and golden hairs
beside grand beds
along great stairs
are fine withal.
“But not so fine”
she says, “nor tall
as a god of mine.
The jeweled eyes
of Joshua burn
so clear and wise
and when they turn
on me, oh friends!
My soul leaps so!
My will so bends!
His curls? I know
they are black, as you said,
and silk and clean,
his beautiful head
the noblest I’ve seen.
Still, it is, I think,
his jeweled eyes,
in which I sink,
in which I rise,
that make me a slave
and him a lord –
more power have they
than law or sword.”
So the lady did cease
and she bowed her head.
We considered in peace
the things she had said.
We thought she had lost
her dignity –
too great a cost
for a love, thought we.
Again she raised
her head – we heard
the man she had praised
call out a word,
and he entered the place
where we were
with a noble pace
and a look at her.
Joshua was all
that she had said –
clear-eyed and tall
and a beautiful head.
Still – we looked at her face
with something of scorn
for her humble place
and the look she had worn.
He looked and she bowed;
he called and she came,
and humble and proud
she spoke his name.
She left her dignity
at his feet ;
“She’ll serve him” thought we,
“and give him her seat!”
But the man who had wed her
gave her his hand,
and Joshua led her
and seated her, and
we saw in the look
of his jeweled eyes
that she who we took
for a fool was wise.
For his look was honor;
the service she gave
laid a dignity on her
we never would have.

A Modern Pilgrimage

Pilgrim, what purpose is in your eyes?
“I look for God!” The Pilgrim cries.
“I cannot forget
That he called me once” the Pilgrim sighs.

Pilgrim, what is that sword about?
“To cut down a foe! Or my own eyes out,
If they should beset –
Nothing will bar me!” She says with a shout.

And that cross? Says the Pilgrim,
“Have you not read
How citizen-pilgrims of heaven are dead
To this world and sin?
I can’t care for them with a cross for my bed!”

And your clothing?
The Pilgrim says, “This dress
Is white – God’s righteousness
He clothes his saints in –
And stout shoes – for the road is long, I confess.”

Ah, but Pilgrim! Why are your shoes
Unworn? Your body unscarred? And whose
Is that mammon you grasp? Why sheath you your sword?
Why has your cross no blood?

Not a word.

Psalm 65

Praise waits for you, O God
Who hears our prayer
To Whom we pay our grateful vows.
Iniquities prevailed
But God has purged
Our sins away and we are clean.

How blessed is the one
Whom God elects
To enter where he is, and speak –
For God will answer us
In righteousness
And we are filled.

Praise waits for You, O God
Who sends us life
Who makes the morning to rejoice
Who stills the sea and sets
The mountains fast –
O Confidence of all the Earth!

Spiritual Lyrics

 

I

Oh, beautiful the Holy Son of God!
How bright is every minute
Which he lowers to inhabit
How right the things that He sets right
How holy whom he chooses
How strong one stands in Jesus’ might
How free the slave whom Jesus looses!
Wise and Mighty is the Son of God!

II

Pray – but when you pray
Do not adress an unknown One
But bowing to him say
“I am your son,
O Thou who hearest my prayer!”
And stepping to his very throne,
Hold him if you dare.

Infinity dwells in the Most High
And there dwell I.

III

When I have not a song to sing
When God has taught my soul, until
My soul has not a thing
To say to Him, and still
My soul  must sing –
My Lord, what then?
When I have not a word
I question you, O Lord.
Who is like You, Lord most high?
Who can ask You what you do
Or resist you and not die?
Or praising you,
Know or say why
You look on men?

Riddle

(to Andy Naselli, Jeremy Kasperzyk, Jeanette Shikoski, and Bob Alexander
because of the Grand Rapids Trip,
which inspired this poem.)

They talked to me.
They were not always right,
but made me learn to think
and yearn to fight
for love – nor fear
to search out truth.
‘Be unafraid of age
yet glad of youth’,
they say, ‘if age
be wise and youth unwasted.’
Protected and nineteen,
I have yet tasted
mighty thoughts, which I
would not have thought myself:
renowned sages kindly wait
my pleasure, on the shelf.

I will say to holy ones,
“I knew and loved you below”.
Bunyan, perhaps, will answer,
“How you know me I know –
though we have not met.
We all own grateful debt
to those who walked the Way before
and left to us their traveler’s lore.”
Maybe the no-longer-timid
Bishop of the Ephesians
will bow in thanks toward the throne,
telling us the reasons
why Paul entreated,
‘bring the scrolls’. We all
will nod with the apostle,
and Spurgeon will smile –
“You were here so long before –
but at times I thought, almost,
that I had come already,
down among my private host.”
“Ah” I will say, “and your sermons, sir.”
Thank God that in that day I will
know as I am known.
But these will do – Until.

Books

They yield on string hinges
into sheltered markets of thought.
Take a notebook, observe
the produce to be bought:
Error is hawked [both sweet and bitter],
Knowledge is offered [fresh or dried],
Handle the leaves, turning, discerning,
Where the rare fruits ‘Wisdom’ hide.

Habitation

The Lord has been our dwelling place
In every age.
He hides within His secret place
The humble soul
And covers with his shadow.
From everlasting to eternal
Timeless age
The Lord is God! The Lord Most High
our dearest goal
And endless habitation.

The Explanation Never Given

If I should look once honestly into your eyes
I fear to see therein your sure surprise
At my unlidded glow.
It would be but the image, though
Of your own flaming speech
The brilliance of your mind
The glowing grace in each
Of all your ways. The light I find,
Most generous friend, in all you do,
Would turn and startle you
If I should look once honestly into your eyes.

So for you the dullish glance of steeled-over eyes
When for others I may smile if I will
Irony! But I only know to be this wise.
My eyes are mirrors and you shine upon me still.

Empty

Taking out the furnishings
Only left the room
O friend, more sunful,
Wider and more free.
Your smile, past all other things
Leaving, left it dull,
Aimless as the tomb,
And more than strange to me.

To Twenty Years Old

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