A Religious Poem You’ll Like

I’m tired. Spent most of the day on the train. My step-daughter flew in from Dallas and landed at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport. We used to drive the whole way to pick the kids up when they flew up to see us, but living in South Central Pennsylvania and the rising price of gasoline has caused us to look a little deeper at the innards of cross-state traveling. We now drive down to Reisterstown, Maryland and take the Metro. Today was the first time doing so.

It was my wife and I, our four-year-old granddaughter and her six-month-old little brother. It was quite an adventure and we had fun. Left home at 11:30 a.m. and arrived home at 9:30 p.m. When we drove we could drive down in an hour-and-a-half and usually make it back in the same time, unless it was rush hour in Baltimore, which it would have been on the return trip. The plane arrived an hour late and so did we, which meant we got there right on time.

We were late because we stopped at Lexington Market in Baltimore for lunch. Then we missed the train that would have put us at the airport right on time to see the 3 p.m. landing. At that time we didn’t know the plane would be late. So we were stressing to get to the airport so that Leah wouldn’t freak out over missing us, or be looking all over the place for us. We got on the train after Lexington and started off in the direction that we thought we should have been heading. After a couple of stops we thought we were going the wrong direction, so we got off, crossed the street, and walked to the next stop. We looked at our schedule again and discovered that we were actually on the right train. Duh!

Stupid we felt, and we stressed some more, and walked down to Camden Yards. We hopped the next train to BWI and when we arrived we met up with Leah, who was happy to see us, but she apologized to us for being late. We were like, “What?” So she told us her plane had just landed. We’d arrived right on time.

Crazy day, but it was fun. My wife and I usually don’t get turned around when we travel and muffle up our arrangements the way we did, but it was just one of those days. Both of us are very level headed and logical thinking and usually do quite well whether we plan ahead or take it on the run. We traveled Germany for 15 days by train in 2005, planning one day out the entire time and had no issues. Why then did we have a mix-up in our own country in just a few short hours? No idea, but we enjoyed the trip.

It was my first foray into Baltimore. I’d driven through, of course, heading to and from BWI, but I’ve never stopped. I’d like to go back now and see the city. When I do, I’ll be looking for some poetry readings. If you know of any good ones, let me know and I’ll stop by and share a few.

The Religious Poem You Will Like

And now, for the poem.

Yesterday, I published a first draft of a poem that I wrote a few nights ago, but am not real impressed with. Tonight I’ll share one that I actually like and is a few years old. The title of this poem is “The Journeymaker’s First And Last Hope”.

I have teeter-tottered on the brink of sin
as if wavering on the edge of a cliff,
toes clinging to the balance
like claws of a hawk capturing its meal;
I have grasped for an anchor to hold
where none existed
while being tossed toward every angle
by a weak wind
and prayed I wouldn’t fall.
It is the silence of the air around,
thin from being so high,
that produces confidence to claim victory
when strangled by the fog.
When waves of the sea slap bouts of anger
against the wall of this mountain
I will find peace that defies understanding.
Though I may slip over the edge,
I will land in the ever-present hand of God
lingering somewhere near the bottom of my drift.

I hope you like this poem much better than the last one. I know I do.

I like it because it still encapsulates a little bit of a mystery. It doesn’t tell all that it can tell. I think a good poem should hold some things back. But it does tell enough that you know what it is about. Even if you can’t relate to the idea of sin – and I recognize that many non-religious people do not have a concept of sin and do not believe in it – I think you can still appreciate the way I’ve captured the essence of guilt without using the word “guilt” at all in the poem. Yet, you don’t really get the sense that the narrator feels guilty in a negative, self-absorbed way. Rather, the portrayal is more of a sense of respect for the reality of the technical guilt associated with having crossed the Divine Lawgiver, not a rush to sentimentalism so prevalent in religious verse. That’s what I tried to stay away from.

Another thing is, I tried to use language not normally used in discussing sin, guilt, holiness. I realize that the phrase “peace that defies understanding” is a little bit close to being trite, but I think it is used in context differently enough that it isn’t quite so. And “ever-present hand of God” is another close call, but still somewhat different than the normal cultural usage. Other phrases, like “teeter-tottered”, “wavering on the edge”, “tossed toward every angle”, and “strangled by the fog”, are not usually associated with this subject matter and so they move the poem forward toward an unexpected climax. The word “drift” at the end of the poem evokes a feeling of loss, as if floating in air with nowhere to go, yet feeling a safety net so to speak. It is an intended double entendre, presenting an image of drifting as a ship drifts off course and drifting as if drifting into a nice cozy sleep, or comfort level. At any rate, I like to think there is nothing in this poem that is expected, but I’ve never got anyone else’s perspective on it. I’d be interested in hearing what others have to say.

This poem was first published in a self-published book titled “Entering the Millennium” in 2001. Not all the poems in the book are religious. There are a few, but most of them are not. The book is available to anyone interested for $7. Drop me a note on my contact form and tell me you want “Entering the Millennium.” I’ll send you the details.

Tomorrow, I’ll share another religious poem that is not my own.

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