Copyright (c) 1995 First Things 50 (February 1995):

Psalm #1

He does not linger with scoffers
in the slow swirl,
bubbled stem of settled
bar beer, the loiterers'
golden climb.

He sweats all day, in Presence,
mumbles among his tools.

How could he be moved?
He is the original natural man,
moving in seasons built for him.
His laugh is the laugh of water.
He does not count success.
It is his fingers.

Not so the wicked, not so.
He has no self
outside of God, sees what he is
as drives, no one behind the wheel;
chaff, before too many winds.

So how shall he stand-THEN?

But God roses the path
the takers of virtue choose.
It is His heart
they walk on, carefully.
But the way of the wicked
is too wide for signposts.
It is a desolate field
and offers nothing
no one can take.

David Craig

First Visions

-Hildegard of Bingen to Her Secretary, the monk Volmar, 1141

Even now they enter me
like a humming tide of light,
a bright cloud that waters
the Earth with veriditas,
the greening power of life.
What is it I call a dream
yet see with my eyes open?
The calf in the womb,
spoked wheels of light,
stars in an ovate universe,
a brightness that makes my soul tremble.

I aged but three when alone
I witnessed this splendor.
Fear stitched my lips for
I could not know what seal
God placed on my heart.
I cried and weakened while
the world about me shimmered.

Like Anna, widowed prophetess,
years I lived bereft as vision
after vision left me bedridden.
At last, Anna glimpsed the child
and knew deliverance.
So when Jutta, my teacher,
my sole keeper, observed
me troubled, guessed
my visions, God enfolded
me in His mantle.

Stella Nesanovich


Genesis 12:7-9

It feels like going mad, this following -
The voice from the starry night, the tent pegs pulled,
Camels tracking through a dusty haze,
The dawn on unknown dunes-the hollowing
Out of normal, ordinary days,
Like meal poured from a sack, till now we hold
Only the echoes of a voice. He told
Us, Go until you reach the promised place,
And Abram went. We've all gone, echoing
Each camp with the next one in the maze.
I watch him through the doorway, hallowing
the dusk with dreams, maddeningly bold.

Abram builds his altars, feels the stone;
But I am left in half-staked tents, alone.

Heidi Rolland

Jacob's Ladder

Suggesting that I get the shotgun
to shoot down Grandmother's ideals,
Grandfather told me how his father
demonstrated that women were fools-
why, if he dangled his foot out the window
for ten minutes, he'd have a woman
like a ring circling every toe.

Grandfather's cynicism reflected in his limp,
his hip displaced in a branding accident
years before-fitting, he said,
for this world of spawning-ditch and boneyard.
I'd seem him cry twice, first at my wedding-
he caught a cold, he said-
nothing about the course of married love
could make him tearful-
and again at my grandmother's funeral:
guarding himself like a watchdog,
he muttered, "Poor Mom,
someday we'll be together again."

No one expected Grandmother
to leave first:
like the wheat,
she would show fresh,
green shoots each fall.
Every winter Grandfather said that
he wouldn't see the violets that
would in spring put up their heads.
Her nerves reacting,
Grandmother increased her pace,
her hands ever-flying.

After her death from cancer
that rooted in the thigh,
I dreamed a rolling field
where Grandmother-her hair waves of gold again,
her eyes shining as Colorado sky-
sat, laughing quietly.
"I guess I'll have to learn
to get things right," she said,
her hands at last sparrows
that had come to roost,
her warmth the fragrance
of fresh-baked bread.

Thomas Ramey Watson