Poem: "We Take The Sky"

In the effort to increase the poetry content of my life and to deter the word diarrhea that is daily generated by my visits to the internet, I'm going to post a poem every Tuesday. This week it's a poem by my good friend, Susanna Childress (wife to equally good friend, Josh Banner).

Her book, Jagged with Love, won the Brittingham Prize in 2005. Selected for this prize by Billy Collins, the collection includes work she created over a period of years that happened to overlap with her time in Austin. In 2003 Hope Chapel invited visual artists and word artists to collaborate for the Easter exhibit. Together they were to create an interpretation of the theme of resurrection. Here is a bit of the original instruction:

1. An image artist must find a writer to interpret their work or, the reverse, a writer can seek out an image artist to visually express their writing.

2. One of the two artists creates an original work, which the second artist then interprets. Who does which is decided between them.

3. It is at the discretion of the artists to what extent they communicate with each the meaning of the original work. That is, an artist may choose to allow the other to interpret their work with some or no comment; they may choose to explain what is depicted or intended, or leave it undefined.

Susanna ended up working with Laura Jennings (art above), and the final result was this poem. I recommend reading it twice in a row, even three times. For me reading this brings back such fond memories of the years we all shared as artists in Austin.


We take the sky, as if red is something we could own,
something we might find in the stillest of moments,
as if the earth is humane and wouldn't break
our bones. (None of His were broken. Not one, allegedly.)

Red is in the land too, is in the way we look at each other, the hardness
of our sleep, the need to fall down, to tell of the pox that swept Aunt Jess,
the drink that ushers Father, the path that never leads to wealth or rest
or health--but the one we always take. Shalom, we say. Buena suerte.

We always take the sky, fold it over ourselves,
the soil, run it across our skin and cling to it,
savoring the tart of a lemon, palming a bar of soap
even when our hands are clean, naming the insects

that fly across the white bulb of moon late at night,
rakishly loving the one who knows our smell,
saying (as if they are not questions), Isn't this how
we stay alive
and Why shouldn't I burrow here.

This is how we drum on, cold and ungrowing--
what more to be than alive? It all hums: so we die in small bits,
so the egg-shaped hollow that sits behind our stomachs,
so He died and rose again on the third day, so (what).

We take the sky, we scatter on the land. We fall down,
grab the everythings, the tiniest cures, fall down again,
wash ourselves in red and know, unwittingly, it is not enough.
More certain than anything: it will never be,

and then here, in the stillest moments, the story rushes again
(veil splitting, stone rolling, Mary, Peter, John, running,
linen and spices like a limp cocoon, the blur of angels, the one red
splash of a second--like a rose breaking open--when we know),

and somewhere inside us a small green seed pricks the dirt,
coiling for air. He soothes and stirs, fingertip-sized holes in His
hands, roaming the soil and the sky for our broken bones.
And the shaking on earth is our brand new lives:

Alleluia, we say, feeling even the empty oval of our stomachs rise.


oh, David! thank you for this today.
My pleasure. I think every new time I read it, I see new things. Reading poetry is such a hassle because you can't read it fast. But I keep reminding myself that I can't know God fast either.
Laurel said…
Beautiful. Thank you.
Greg said…
Thank you, David.
Juli said…
Thank you for sharing this - so alive and wonderful.

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