Thursday, January 17, 2008

Number 3: Poetry

I feel a little embarrassed to share this, and not a little self-conscious, but it was a gift, we received it as a gift, and so we share it as a gift to be enjoyed by everybody, as it were, who sits at our table, as if we'd be given an amazing bottle of chocolate liqueur that we would be daft not to share. It's a poem Luci Shaw wrote for our wedding.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that poetry is something that lives like fire inside of you. It surges from the soul's deepest places and sharpens the truth of things, whether sweetly or painfully.

But good poetry is always good for the soul. And I'm not a poet. I write my sermons with an ear for the lyrical flow of words. I like words. I like the act of playwriting. I repeat words out loud, over and over, the same words, because I like how they sound. But I'm not a poet.

And yet for experiences such as this weekend I really need the shepherding of poets to help me both feel and make sense of what is actually happening--the making of one flesh, for example, so common a phrase, yet so ridiculously outlandish. My desire for poetry explains, I think, why I'm so drawn to the Anglican liturgy.

It says things not only truthfully but beautifully; the liturgy captures our theology precisely but keeps reminding us, in its persistent return to poetic language, that God is more than, our experience of Him is more than, our experience of one another is more than, our knowledge of God is more than even soul-nourishing dogmatic theology and demands the poetic doxologies of artists for us to be able to say, "Yes, that's it. It's like that. That's close, yes, I think this is getting us closer." Closer to what? Closer to the personal truth of a transcendent, loving God, Jesus the Christ.

I'm grateful for all the poets who've helped me make sense of life. I know they don't get much credit for doing much good, but they're the closest to expert translators of the heart of God that we have.

Lastly, a technical note. An epithalamion is a poetic form that as far back as ancient Greece was used to honor a newly wed couple. We are deeply honored, and embarrassed in the best sense out there, that Luci would write one on our behalf.

Epithalamion
for Phaedra & David


As God, creating, lifted from Adam
the archetypal rib, now, David, because you were alone,
he gives to you Phaedra, telling you,
“Here. This is your woman, bone of your bone.”

And Phaedra, longing for your loving to come true,
remember how the Lord God spoke,
so that a curving, warm bone woke
into a woman--vital, beautiful, and new!

Lord, let now your word leap down again, restore
Eden, and innocence, and say once more
Good! Will you, who made one like yourself,
and from that one made two,
join them in one again?

Luci Shaw

3 comments:

livingpalm said...

i'm speechless

jamie said...

Amazing.

Ahna said...

I didn't even realize I had started holding my breath as I mouthed the words of the poem, until I got to the end and exhaled deeply, as tears inspired by Hope and Beauty sprang to my eyes.