Copyright (c) 1993 First Things 30 (February 1993): 4, 40, 44.

The Providence of Books

"It is sometimes given to us, this lovely emptiness,
and then the Holy Spirit can fill it. . . ."
Madeleine L'Engle

. . . and it happens, too,
when words upon the printed page
fall into place,
and fit the moment and the heart
and, by undivided Grace,
what lies within,
what lies without,
converges into deepest sight.
In this depth
and breadth and height,
the outworn self evaporates.
Its hidden fears
and petty hatreds all abate.
For across that lovely emptiness,
the Voice behind all voices sings,
beckons us, and flings
His joyful laughter up
against the gates of Paradise
and, for a moment,
swings them wide once more.

Stephanie Weller Hanson


Tokyo Rain

With our cameras and crumpled clothes
we wait for the bus. We rush to each
"beauty spot" through narrow streets,
observing signs whose alphabet we fail
to comprehend.

Pretty girls are scattered like rain.
We pass students on bikes, old people
stooped over bundles. The new "good life"
of Japan smiles at us from Coke posters
on rundown store fronts. Dingy flats
and factories crowd the roads, relieved
briefly by ragged patches of green
and graceful shrines.

Although he tries to make things clear,
the guide is mechanical and tired.
The bus windows are splattered with
rain and each of us is deep in
murky water.

B. R. Strahan


Intense Transforming Care: On the Way Back

Slowly: out of that sleep that numbs the knife edge,
I come home to a various world, to faces and voices,
To a blur of angels at this keep, awaiting.
Vague prophecies of life somewhat lasting,
A testing of steadying heartbeat, of firm susperation.
Such is the welcomed review of my waking,
I, who long wait a review of old words:
Indifferent journals stack high in the dusty library.
It is time to set this whole house in order:
With what mutual joy, then, this steady acclaim;
A cold stethoscope even assures of rumbling gases,
Last sign of return to the intricate, the elemental.
What joy in this communal moment devoted to life:
We celebrate this late voice of my waking,
The lowly intestines surrendering recovery.
Slowly: I shall return to dark bread and deep wine.

Marion Montgomery