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Posts Tagged ‘resurrection’

For one brief moment each place is its center. The sky parts, darkness rends, the sun touches that place then moves on, but the place retains the sureness of its center.

We are wakened at 2:00 a.m. by trumpets and tubas playing hymns. They have stopped outside our window on Marshall St., played two verse, then moved on. I peek through the blinds while downstairs my Mom goes out onto the front porch in her nightie to thank them. From other parts of the old town, faint and distant, Linda and I can hear the band’s counterparts. Our alarm is set for 4:30. We whisper in the darkness. For a moment we are the center.

By 5:30 we have gathered with hundreds of others in the darkness outside Home Moravian Church in Salem Square. Robins sing continuously. There’s a scolding chickadee in the fresh-leaved poplar, its silhouette barely discernible in the pre-dawn. The old church clock strikes the hour. The liturgy commences. The congregants respond: This we truly believe. A brass choir leads the hymns and we listen for the echo.

Now we have processed from the Square to God’s Acre, brass harmonies behind to encourage, bands at all corners of the broad fields to call us along. As we gather among the unadorned white gravestones, “the democracy of death,” each with fresh flowers, the players gradually converge into one orchestra at the center. Three hundred strong. The liturgy concludes with a sweeping final anthem. The sky parts. Darkness is rent. Here is the sun, and the center.

The Lord is risen indeed.

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It’s hard to count how many times Joseph Bathanti has visited Elkin, NC to bring us poems. He read at the library here in March to prepare us all for Poetry Month, and as he always begins when he stands up after the introduction, he said, “It’s great to be back here at the center of the universe.”

Thank you, Joseph. We always feel like you mean it. And after we’ve listened to your poetry we do discover ourselves at the center.

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Joseph’s poem EASTER is from his book Anson County. It was originally published in 1989 but has been re-released in 2013 by Press 53 in Winston-Salem. When we returned from this morning’s Easter sunrise service in Old Salem, and after a nap, I sat on the porch in the sun and leaned back with Anson County. “I know there’s an Easter poem in here.” I was not disappointed. I never am.

. . . . .

EASTER

They stand like shades
against the skyline:
in resurrection suits
and second-day dresses;
waiting to be gathered and burned
by the first fires of dawn
they have come to believe
will perfect their two-days-planted fruit.
Now like the rush of souls
it leaps across the sky
shredding fog with cerise flames
sudden as tongues.
And there can be no denial
of this white light
that carves fields rife
with wheat and corn,
sculpts holy men behind plows,
draws the harrow and martingale –
nor the flash and raiment of seeds
above the red river mouth.
Behold.

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from Anson County, Joseph Bathanti, Press 53, Winston-Salem NC, copyright 2103.

Originally published in 1989 by William & Simpson, and again in 2005 by Parkway Publishers.

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Showy Orchis

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OF SORROWS AND ACQUAINTED WITH

Third Day
What door opens
when it’s closed?
The man with no arms
catches the bird.
Does the barrow dream it rolls
itself uphill?
Escape
frees no one.

My friends don’t know me
until I know them. They can’t
call my name until I call theirs.
Today we will eat together and be full;
tomorrow we’ll be hungry again.

Some say you created hunger so that we
might appreciate bread,
but even the fat man likes to eat,
and no want of bread ever drew
a dead man from his tomb.
There is no point to hunger.
No point at all except that we
must all be hungry together.

On the leafless branch,
a ripe fig.
Who gives it all away
becomes rich.
Cry, mouth. Drink, throat.
Reach, arms.

In the end, it is not my power
to roll this rock away. My friends
won’t know me until they know I
know them. None of them ask,
Three days? What took you so long?
Their blood is warm on my face. They
draw me to their breast.

Bless me, Father, for I
will struggle, and my heart is all pain
and all thanks.

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by Bill Griffin

Day One posted April 6, 2012

Day Two posted April 7, 2012

Originally published in Wild Goose Poetry Review

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Star Chickweed

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OF SORROWS AND ACQUAINTED WITH

Second Day
The voices are almost quiet here.
Like sleep, but without the need
to awaken. An old man who can’t summon up
an image of the hour he’s just spent, is he
a captive of his past or freed
to live in the moment? And a young man
who can’t imagine his next hour?

The voices are almost quiet here.
I add my own voice to that thrum,
a single indeterminate bee
in a distant honey tree. Oneness.
Distance. Warm, golden, sweet,
and who can remember the stings?
Have you abandoned me
or is emptiness my fulness?

The voices are almost quiet here.
How is it done? Are stones and darkness
enough to shut them out? When a man denies
the need for food because he desires
never again to feel hunger, when he breaks
the knife because it has cut him,
when he closes his eyes
because he fears darkness, then

the voices are almost quiet. Here
there is no need to discover
my voice. Oneness, or nothingness?
A mother draws her newborn son
to her breast, her own blood still warm
on his face. The pain, she doesn’t forget it,
but her heart is all thanks. The voices
are almost quiet here. But only almost.

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by Bill Griffin

Day One posted April 6, 2012

Day Three posted April 8, 2012

Originally published in Wild Goose Poetry Review

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Wood Anemone

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OF SORROWS AND ACQUAINTED WITH

First Day
Forgive me, Father, for I
struggle. Did you have to make self
the first syllable of selflessness?
But truthfully, what soul
borne in bone and blood would welcome
this grinding? This heaviness? Like hell
they know not what they do. Even the stones
cry out for my surrender. Why?

Yesterday I walked through the garden
with my friends. They laughed.
Have you heard the one about the soldier,
the rabbi, and the carpenter?
Anyone who’s not depressed
just doesn’t really know what’s going on.
Why resist? There is an hour at the end
of night when the eastern fields turn grey and yet
it is still possible to imagine
this morning there will be no sun.

I prayed for you to take it from me,
this cup. I still don’t know
if I can drink.

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by Bill Griffin

Second Day     posted April 7, 2012

Third Day         posted April 8, 2012

Originally published in Wild Goose Poetry Review

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