Twenty Years Old
20 Years Old
My life will be an open house –
People will come and go,
Eat at my desk,
And wash their hands in my tears.
I bury hope of earthly spouse,
Making it seed to sow.
Come, look and ask
What I reap in eternal years.
Upon Reading Tolkien For the First Time;
After Being Disappointed in Love
It’s maudlin, I know. And yet without it, the record would be incomplete.
I have seen Lothlorien
come to grace this latter age;
and merry men who are not men,
tall and lightsome, sober, sage,
the Fair Folk, have come back again!
Suburbs have a dullish hum;
the trees are merely green and gray,
and all the people there are numb
from watching little screens all day –
but that is where my Elf is from.
startled was I
by a plain,
Elf going by!
and grinned at my stare –
surprise stood there.
To grin also –
gold was his smile.
deep eyes so
burned blue the while.
And this my old, my elvenfriend,
Is tall, is slight and strong, and he
is always wise and gracious when,
with quiet immortality,
he moves among the mortal men.
And I have seen his marble face
white before a Fell Thief –
and yet his hands remembered grace,
and others nearly faint with grief
he calmed and gently held in place –
his hands are sensitive and long.
His feet are swift, his forehead wise,
and oh! his deep and hearty song,
and every laughing new surprise
of intellect both quick and strong,
and mischief of his burning eyes!
Oh merry men not quite of men,
come to grace this graceless age,
our old dim longings to engage –
laughing all Lothlorien,
Oh Fair Folk, come ye back again!
Ode To Me
I always thought to make a man
my poet laureate. However,
finding that I need a plan
to c-h-o myself forever,
I write this. It’s necessary,
now that I’ve renounced to marry.
Therefore this Ode shall wholly be
a poem raised in praise of me;
to say the things my loving head
(if there had been one) would have said.
Lana, Lana, Lana! I make these vows to you –
I will be here with you no matter what you do.
I will try to grant your wishes,
and even sometimes wash your dishes.
I’ll defend you publicly, and always take your side,
And you can tell me everything you feel and think inside.
I’ll tell you gently when you’re wrong
And tell you gladly when you’re right.
I’ll sigh with you, cry with you, sing your song,
And I won’t even know if you snore at night.
Well! This little exercise has greatly cleared my mind.
I love myself far better than a mister could, I find.
Studying the Doctrines of Grace
I sat out of school for a year, trying to recover. I read a lot – poetry, biography, Tolkien for the first time, and theology – Calvinist theology, specifically Jonathan Edwards and Iian Murray.
Brother, do not scold me –
Though you do not eat the gold
And green apples, and scarlet,
This corner of the Garden, (The Word of God)
Growing apart –
The Chief Gardener told me (The Lord)
They guarded stalwart men of old
From that subtle Harlot, (Error, apostasy, all kinds of unfaithfulness)
Against which you bid me harden
My mind and heart.
He also said some men, unlearned,
Have cast the fruit, all unfair,
And bruised with it a favorite creeper. (preaching)
The apples were neglected
By most since then.
But should that fruit be spurned
Which was mis-used? Rather beware
I think, that you not offend the Keeper. (Gardener)
This fruit was long expected
To delight men.
I will tell you what taste
The apple has – not immediate
Sweet drunkenness of Raspberries, (revival)
Or mealy sustenance of a Potato. (practical exercises)
First like frost (fear)
It stings; tears wash your face.
Then, if you keep eating it
It takes the mildness of white cherries. (charity; or love)
It makes you quiet and you know
Nothing is lost –
The Gardener is good, and His fruit
Is also good. Later what was mild
Grips you with strength. I tell you
The apples glow with the Keeper’s beauty,
His fragrant grace.
Now the trees are quite lofty, to suit
The height of His wisdom. I, a child,
Have tasted the lowest fruits. Well you
Might pluck the higher, such your duty
In this place.
Fear not -who fails among these trees
Only disregards the rules of Our Garden –
“Always eat in the Gardener’s presence”
and, “pick your own, don’t purchase
from a booth.”
Well I know these apples do not please
Those who do not belong to the Garden.
But what a wondrous wealth of pleasance
For us who eat here to change our taste,
Lovers of truth.
The Gardener comes! (Now ask;
He will not feed you till you
Are hungry.) Ah, Sir – in all this paradise
You are the most beautiful sight;
I come here
Only to see You. I finished my task –
Shall we have a feast? And will you
Tell me of your plans for us, Most Wise,
How you fought and won your grand fight,
And how dear
I was to you then? After I have warmed my heart
In your glories, you shall tell me if I’m
Not more grace-full than last time,
And what new task to start.
This poem has no literary value whatever but it shows my growing impatience with fundamentalist ideas of righteousness. Here in a form barely exaggerated at all, I portray my view of families in my church in which the married couple tried to “let go and let God” when it came to birth control, without teaching men any measures to restrain the flesh – fasting was not practiced, ascetic spiritual discipline of any kind was unheard of. These families invariably had a child every ten to twelve months – which made it look more like a law of nature than an act of God – and more than one man had to be metaphorically collared by his wife’s medical doctor and told to lay off.
Deacon Wombley stands six foot,
Still has hair, and speaks out hearty.
His wife wears dresses to the floor,
His children salaam and are never tardy
To Sunday School.
Now the deacon knew
His family was magnificent.
So among the church folk Wombley dispensed
Domestic wisdom wherever he went.
And on this very point he was most emphatic,
That mortal men may never choose who
Or how many new souls join their ranks.
His family was proof of the joy to ensue|
When every good man allowed God to be sovereign
In building the home, in filling the quiver,
And ceased to think himself responsible.
This doctrine, he said, is good for the liver,
And produces other health benefits.
(His pale wife hugged her belly with one arm
With the other, three babies in colicky fits.)
After three or four years of this teaching,
The nurseries at church became quite full.
Healthy men roved everywhere,
Followed by wives submissive (and dull)
Keeping an eye on their blossoming brood.
These were followed by older offspring
So amazingly mature for their age
They no longer needed attention or training.
Alas, every paradise has a serpent;
Into this one came Nathaniel McBru.
Along with his wife – and only three children.
And Nathaniel McBru was thirty-two!
The Deacon surveyed the wife of McBru
And knew by her natural color of face
That she was too idle, too coddled and that
She was not aware of a woman’s place –
He surveyed her and groaned in his soul.
The Deacon, however, was charitable.
After the vote that made them members,
He mentioned to Nate that God was able,
Being sovereign, to give them more children than three.
“God is sovereign” McBru said, “Indeed.
Deacon Wombley, I think I am going to like you.
That very truth is the base of my creed!”
The Deacon smiled – he thought he’d got through.
However, another four years later,
There had only come one more McBru child, a girl –
Since then the McBrus had enjoyed her and waited!
“How stiff-necked” the Deacon said to his wife.
She answered her lord, “We might have known”,
Holding her latest two in her lap
And watching McBru’s wife converse with her own.
Now Nate McBru was not a foo,
He heard the suspicious, whispering voices,
He saw how he and his wife were mistrusted,
All because of their bedroom choices.
And so one day he casually challenged
Wombley with a doctrinal fault,
Laying a friendly trap, as it were,
To put his critiquing to a halt.
Said Nate, “God is sovereign in spiritual births,
Surely this is a truth you concede?
Yet you often go out soulwinning, sir!”
Good Deacon Wombley cried, “Indeed,
God is sovereign in saving of souls,
But that doesn’t mean I need not take action –
I’m responsible still! For we know not the way
God’s control and the preacher’s job intertwine.
God rules through my choices, I always say!”
“I think” said Nathaniel, “You’ve got the right line.
God rules through your choices and also through mine.”
Nathaniel McBru and his charming wife
Have decided their time for new babies is done.
Nate has seven beautiful kids
And he claims God gave him every one.
As I studied “the doctrines of grace” (what Calvinists call their doctrines) I was filled with love for the more serious, more transcendent God I was discovering, and began trying to find my place relative to him. Later I would be haunted by the nightmare of the dark side of election, coming to believe that God perhaps did not love me at all, and realizing that the logical conclusion of God’s sovereignty in the Calvinist view is that God has deliberately created the world so that, in the final denouement of Earth’s story, a place of evil and anguish will be carefully populated and preserved.
However, for a time these doctrines brought me along the path I needed to walk. Particularly my understanding of humility was deepened to include something less slavish than I had imagined before – something more joyful. The writings of Jonathan Edwards and his vision of God’s glory is splendid to the intellect.
Particularly this poem rejects commonplace revivalist ideas about “laying it all on the altar” in preference for experiencing a deeper-seated, growing realization that one’s creatureliness means that one has nothing to offer God that isn’t his already – and that to consecrate oneself to God is actually to experience a reality that already exists. For this, the doctrine of election (as I gingerly handled it at this time) was very handy.
Later still, I realized that even in the Old Testament, unlike the revivalist model, when someone offers something to God it is a confession that this thing has already come from God. Moreover, God usually gave the offerings back to the person and after something had been on the altar either the priest or the person making the sacrifice would eat or drink the offering.
With new-born grace I made resort
and went in glad to the Savior’s court.
There with joy I made
a gift to my new King,
my self, my work, and every thing
all in a heap
for Him to keep.
Since then I have had time to sift
and sort and weigh my first glad gift.
Again I consecrate
myself. No joyful shout –
silent will I wait
on Him, nor evermore go out:
deformed and lame,
a gift of shame,
while only from my Darling’s face
flows all the beauty of the place.
I make no offering now.
But if He speaks His thought,
and gently tells me how
I’m His, saying, “I chose and bought
and long loved you ” –
I whisper, “true”.
And often I stumble after my Dear,
afraid to lose Him in the place,
and courtiers, knowing He brought me here,
praise all the glory of His grace.
I only dream that I awake,
Reaching toward your will,
And always re-awake to sleep.
I would wail, “Do not be still!
Arouse me for your sake!”
But palled with shame, I dare not weep.
It’s I wait still, while You stand calling me.
O Lord! My fault – but yours the remedy.
Rest tonight with quiet heart,
O Loved of God –
a Son is given to take your part.
Flaming heavens sing –
it is the LORD has done this thing.
Smile with hopeful eyes tonight,
Who would see God –
you have the Ray of God’s own Light.
From the Father’s throne
He shines to earth, and makes God known.
Give tonight with generous hands,
O Child of God –
your Father gave to all the lands.
Gift of costly worth,
for praise to God and peace with earth.
Pray tonight with holy fear,
Redeemed of God –
your God enfleshed has brought you near.
By His truth and grace,
the humble ones will see God’s face.
Sing tonight with happy voice,
O Known of God,
His Son so brings you to rejoice.
Thus His goodness flows
from Heaven, and earth His glory shows.
My limber legs, which run fair well
which graciously the old steps spell,
enroute to You more often fall –
sudden stiff and blue,
while ‘lame’ ones pass me where I crawl,
flying on to You.
Will I not run until You hobble me?
But Paul was greater once in books than I!
Then show Yourself, or where I fall I’ll lie –
give me his remedy, till I cry loss
on everything but Christ and His grim cross.
Oh, God! My Goal, my Prize, my Agony –
Jehovah reigns: He has shown Himself
Divine in strength and majesty:
The earth You made abides from ancient times.
But You are from eternity,
O Jehovah, our God.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord, their voice
The floods lift tumult to the sky,
They fling their pounding waves upon the shore.
More mighty is the Lord on high,
O Jehovah, our God.
The Lord has given witness of Himself:
His glorious works confirm His Word;
Our God is true. Then holiness forevermore
Is fitting to Your household, Lord,
O Jehovah, Our God.
The Love of the Strawberry
I loved strawberries, and hyperbole.
The Love of the Strawberry
March 13 2003
To my girlfriends, Emily, Jenny, Jenni, Kate, and Molly:
Who are Better than a Thousand Strawberries.
Laney languished long,
Alas, and Alas!
When would winter wear away?
Till one morning there came a song,
Strawberries cheap today!
Beware of the love of the Strawberry,
The scarlet gloss
The spurting glory
The sweet and gorgeous
If you would preserve the vanity
Of “free-will” or of “sanity”,
Or walk the aisle of the grocery store
Untormented by luscious gore,
Beware the love of the Strawberry!
She never suspected the spell,
She lightly bought two juicy pounds,
Tried to stop but ate them all.
Her lament forever sounds.
Beware of loving a Strawberry,
The peevish spell
Of a tyrannous Fairy
Than life-long thrall to the
Oh, Beware the Love of the Strawberry!
For the sane would rather walk on dirt
And smell the trash, and feel the hurt,
Than be deceived that all is sweet,
Or fragrant or gentle or nice to eat!
Therefore beware the Strawberry!