JOURNAL 8/24/11: Two Poems

JOHN 3:8

Earlier this week I’m having coffee with an elderly friend (not that I’m exactly a spring chicken myself). My friend has two doctorates in subjects so complex I can hardly imagine any details of what goes into either of them. One of them is analytical theology, which I never heard of before I met my friend.

In fact, I have never heard of it since we first met many years ago either. Meeting someone with a doctorate in analytical theology isn’t exactly like meeting someone who says they have a driver’s license.

So this is a highly educated and most perceptive person.

That’s why what he says at one point during our conversation surprises me. He gets noticeably weepy – he tears up enough to attract attention from others in the coffee shop – and says: “Do you know what the proof of the existence of God is, for me? The thing that proves to me that God exists is the existence of Israel after all these centuries.”

That’s not where I expect him to go with his question, especially with all of that analytical theology hovering over us like a cloud of humming birds.

And it’s not what I spend much time thinking about either – maybe I should, I don’t know, but I don’t – so I’m stymied.

Fortunately he changes the subject immediately – ideas rip around inside my friend’s mind like Indy 500 cars doing qualifying heats (I know nothing about car racing, so that metaphor begins and ends right there) – so I don’t even have time to ponder the observation.

But I do ponder it later, and it dawns on me this may be one of those unpredictable and sovereign ways the Holy Spirit works. So I put it in the form of a poem:

JOHN 3:8

old friend’s eyes spurt

sudden tears

at the thought of some

Bible truth or other that

veritably may be true and

very well may not…

but there just is no

(is there)

accounting for the Light

and what it slides

behind or


to italicize

to illumine

for that Light child or


who needs it so


Remember – after reading the previous poem, and after the next one as well – I’m not claiming any inherent poetic value in these pieces at all. They are simply a way for me to focus an experience … verbalize what, for me, is its real-life (“inherent”) rhythm … and allow, insofar as possible, the “spiritual dimension” of the experience at least to wave a little flag, if not exactly come right out and announce itself.

This one may speak for itself, I’m not terribly proud to say:




if the smell of four-day

desiccated lobster

turns into something you can see

and if its deathly taste

gets all dressed up

and goes shopping:

it will be this old woman

in Aisle 7 at Walmart:

all four sprigged feet of her—

snappy crab legs for arms

knobby twigs for legs

all turned smeary salmon color

from cheap suntan glop in a tube,

a color that matches her rust-dyed

hair chopped all around

like a pageboy caught in a riot

and the price of seeing Jesus

in her is so high

the household budget has to go

into the can

and a new self


than her macaroni elbow bends,

tinier than her coccyx (which

no one wants to even think about),

a self small like a pea

that until Aisle 7 happened

was as swollen as a hippo,

has to be found, and that



because this is what it’s

about, this

crucifixion of –

this denial of –

self, and no

price is too high

for a trendy damned sinner

to buy out

of the trendy damned world

and buy into

the One Who

(the prophet says)

isn’t exactly a hottie,

has no good looks,

no upscale trendy clothes that’ll be

out of style before Aisle 7 ends,

so that anyone would want

to look twice,


not even once


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