(March 1998)

Copyright (c) 1998 First Things 81 (March 1998):.

Psalm 144

My fingers twang the bowstring.
Arrows flying from the tower
Land whole armies at my feet.
What is one human,
That God should know or care about him or his children?
Steam clouds, shadows in the air.
Lightning makes the mountains smoke;
Broken sunlight, rainbows.
Nock your shafts, Lord, fix
Those strangers speaking languages
With no word for truth,
Who hold one hand out fingers crossed behind their back.
Teach me to pluck the heartstring, sing
Like David did before
Those strangers speaking languages
With no word for truth.
Set our sons in glazed
Enamelled tile patterns, inlaid
Daughters, walls and pillars.
Keep our pantries stocked with meat, fruit, grain, and drink.
Let no guest uninvited, come,
Nor welcomed, go.
When miseries shout in the street,
Take them in hand.

Laurance Wieder

The Waltz We Were Born For

Wind chimes ping and tangle on the patio.
In gusty winds this wild, sparrow hawks hover
and bobóalways the crash of indigo
hosannas dangling on strings. My wife ties copper
to turquoise from deserts, and bits of steel
from engines I tear down. She strings them all
like laces of babiesí shoes when the squeal
of their play made joyful noise in the hall.

Her voice is more modest than moonlight,
like pearl drops she wears in her lobes.
My hands find the face of my bride.
I stretch her skin smooth and see bone.
Our children bring children to bless her, her face
more weathered than mine. What matters
is timeless, dazzling devotionónot rain,
not Eden gardenias, but cactus in drought,
not just moons of deep sleep, not sunlight or stars,
not the blue, but the darkness beyond.

Walt McDonald

Odinís Eye

Odin didnít have to give it up,
you know;
didnít have to pluck out that Nordic orb,
that gob-stopper, whose twin, itís said,
was the sun.

He didnít have to give it up
because he was chief of the gods, you know,
and rank does have its privileges;
but Mimir the dwarf said it
was the least he could do
to drink from the fount of wisdom.

So "plop" it went out of the socket;
and Odin got his drink.
Did he guzzle it down and smack his lips,
or savor it drop by drop?
Or was it, you know,
thick and bitter
and smell all of the grave?

Odin later died, of course;
all the Norse gods did.
The Frost giants got the best of them.
One-eyed Odin was wise by then and saw it coming;
but when your destinyís to be chow for a wolf
isnít it better to own all your parts
in happy incomprehension
than it is to know that all myths are as grass,
that they wither and perish as leaves on the trees?

And what was in it anyway,
in that chalice that made him wise,
beyond grief and pain and patience
and all the loved things we have to fling over
to be as wise as dwarves?

David Hartman