Death of Poetry

I wrote this over 6 years ago, and it’s been saved as a draft… I thought I would share it, since it still means something to me. And I share, so that poetry lives on, at least here. 

There’s poetry in my heart,
but I’m scared to let you see it,
to hear it;
to be given the chance to;
the power to,
reject me.
So I hide it, stifle it, until it shrinks and fades away in hopes to be awaken another day.

Again, I am afraid, but not for me, but for the death of poetry…

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October 31st, 2017

I sit at my desk, this chilly morning. It’s 18 degrees (-7 C) outside. A space heater sits at my feet, as I read The Hiding Place. A fitting book for a day like today. Full of faith, and full of fear. I was baptized on this day 18 years ago (it is also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation). And, as you probably know, it is Halloween.

“‘Oh, my dears, I am sorry for all the Dutchmen now who do not know the power of God. For we will be beaten. But He will not.'” The delightful Mr. ten Boom, spoken soon before his country came under the occupation of Germany in the second World War.

I am past that part, now. Reading about their work with the “underground” to hide Jews. As of yet, they have not succumbed to despair.

“That it could have been happy, at such a time and in such circumstances, was largely a tribute to Betsie… Sometimes we had concerts, with Leendert on the violin, and Thea, a truly accomplished musician, on the piano. Or Betsie would announce ‘an evening of Vondel’ (the Dutch Shakespeare), with each of us reading a part…”

Oh, to know the wisdom in maintaining a jovial spirit in the midst of trouble. ❤

And I hope there is not much trouble tonight. I’ll be staying inside, maybe watching a movie – not scary, mind you. Or maybe I’ll continue to read of the terrors of history. If I want a real nail-biter, I might even listen to the news. Stay safe, ‘Merica, and my fellow earth dwellers. Jesus loves you.

Entering The Hiding Place

So, after much hesitation, I started reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (whom I shall refer to on a first name basis from here). Over this past summer, I have read many stories, books, and listened to speakers on persecution, death, and grief. I wasn’t sure my heart could take much more, even as I grabbed the book from my father’s collection.

I have greatly benefited from these stories of torment and heartache. My faith has been strengthened like never before with the knowledge that our God is worth suffering for, and that He is present in our sufferings. (The depths of this truth is beyond what I have planned to explore in this blog post.) Even with these immeasurable blessings, I hesitated to continue. These stories are heavy, and my heart is easily broken.

Nevertheless, with a little encouragement from friends, I opened this slightly-worn, hard cover copy borrowed from my dad’s library. Corrie is an excellent author, and she pulls you in and prepares you to continue reading. The first couple of chapters paint a picture of life before the trauma, and gently foreshadows the coming tragedies.

Corrie’s father is a treasure of warmth and wisdom. She shares memories with him from her childhood, lessons she learned from him, that stayed with her and helped her.

“He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.

‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

‘It’s too heavy,” I said.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older an stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.’

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions – for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”

I love that last line, and the imagery of all this. An important fact that begs mentioning is that her father is a trustworthy man. He is not withholding information that she needed to know just yet. He is protecting her, and he remains to protect her until she can handle the weight of this knowledge. I think this is a beautiful picture of how God cares for His children.

Though the children of the late 1800’s in Holland may have been shielded from some knowledge, they were not shielded from the knowledge of death. After seeing a dead baby outside, Corrie is shaken to the core (suddenly aware that people she loved could die) and cries to her dad that evening.

“…’I need you!’ I sobbed. ‘You can’t die! You can’t!’
Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently, ‘when you and I go to Amsterdam – when do I give you your ticket?’
I sniffed a few times, considering this. ‘Why, just before we get on the train.’
‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.'”

I don’t think that needs any more explanation.  ❤

I will likely continue recording my thoughts and favorite quotes as I continue reading.

 

Langston Hughes

In honor of National Black Poetry Day, I am sharing a couple of poems from Langston Hughes.
Harlem, by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Live New

Stop hating yourself before
You accept what you hated you for.
You’re tired of fighting, I’m sure,
but step away from the anchor
you want to drop in these
poisonous, restless seas.

It’s the waves you must fight,
while you rest in the Light.
Speak peace to the wind
And sail on from your sin.

Because it’s not who you are,
though it rises from within.
You’ve been given a new heart.
Stop hating your own skin,
as you war against your sin.

You are new. Live new.
Free from condemnation,
Free to deny what is no longer you.
Accept this liberation
and live new.

 

Tell Me Why

Tell me why I should pry
these hands apart and try
to make and maintain
a hidden peaceful terrain
that no one else sees,
if it only blesses me.

My child, let Me explain.
Your home is my home.
The places you roam
are under my reign.

I plant flowers undiscovered
in fields under covers of snow.
Where only I know, they grow.
I make stars and galaxies
far from the sight of technology.
And I swing planets on a string
beyond your wildest dreams.
I form wonders on the floor
of oceans yet unexplored.
I set the path for birds to fly
where no heart can know to sigh
or lament its fall from the sky.
My thoughts and my creative care
reaches there.

What do you believe about Me?
I do not neglect the lonely.
It blesses me to bless you with peace,
And someday you will share
what has been hidden with care.

Iconoclastic: reflections on A Grief Observed

I had to look that word up. C.S. Lewis does that to me – makes me look up words. And it’s a good one. Iconoclastic. It means “attacking or ignoring cherished beliefs and long-held traditions, etc.,as being based on error, superstition, or lack of creativity…”

In A Grief Observed, Lewis dives into the necessity of shattering our false ideas about God.

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?”

And, of course, the main subject of the book is Lewis’ grieving the death of his wife. Therefore the following relates to the image and ‘cherished beliefs’ we have of people being shattered, particularly of loved ones. He wrestles with the fear of loving the memory of her rather than her herself. He loved her iconoclastic reality.

“All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness.”

Can I swoon for a second? I want a love like that. Love that cherishes the reality of who you are and not the mere idea of you. To have the freedom to contradict the idea of yourself, and still be loved, and loved even more for being real. ❤ How many of us have lost love for not being “what I thought you were” ? Surely then, we were in love with an idea rather than a person.

If indeed we love people and God rather than our ideas of them, it is a relief when our ideas are shattered. What a relief to be shown where we are wrong! Oh, God, I didn’t know! And now “I have come to misunderstand a little less completely,” (Lewis) What a blessing it is to get that much closer to You by destroying my false ideas about You!

“And all this time I may, once more, be building with cards. And if I am He will once more knock the building flat. He will knock it down as often as proves necessary.”

And at the possibility of being even better understood by his wife after her death, he did not shrink back – confident in her love. 

“For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives – to both, but perhaps especially to the woman – a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.”

And this intimate knowledge and love is what our Savior Jesus Christ possesses for us.

“His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him.”

2014

A poem on the year 2014. 

Homeless; not hopeless.
It’s under control
Unemployed;  not destroyed.
You cannot take my soul
A penny for my thoughts
A penny never sought.
Endless words. “You ought”

Think back on all I learned
The lessons that I spurned
No. Not ready to be taught
Let me think of something else
Something other than myself
Or him. Definitely not him.

The good memories are the worst
They carry away my hope in a hearse
So sweet. He swept me off my feet
And my brain took a vacation.
But I remained to romanticize the pain.

Thank God it is over
and I left to gather clover
With children who keep getting older.
Babies of my sisters and brother.

And without knowing anything else,
they taught me the joy of innocence
in the little moments they would forget
But I would hold forever.

Fyodor

I want to say to you, about myself, that I am a child of this age, a child of unfaith and scepticism, and probably (indeed I know it) shall remain so to the end of my life. How dreadfully has it tormented me (and torments me even now) this longing for faith, which is all the stronger for the proofs I have against it. And yet God gives me sometimes moments of perfect peace; in such moments I love and believe that I am loved; in such moments I have formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me. This creed is extremely simple; here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, and more perfect than the Saviour; I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one. I would even say more: If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth.

Letter To Mme. N. D. Fonvisin (1854), as published in Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (1914), translated by Ethel Golburn Mayne, Letter XXI, p. 71