“There Have Come Soft Rains” by John Philip Johnson

John Philip Johnson

THERE HAVE COME SOFT RAINS

In kindergarten during the Cold War,
mid-day late bells jolted us,
sending us single file into the hallway,
where we sat, pressing our heads
between our knees, waiting.

During one of the bomb drills,
Annette was standing.
My mother said I would talk on and on
about her, about how pretty she was.
I still remember her that day,
curly hair and pretty dress,
looking perturbed the way
little children do.
Why, Annette? There’s nothing
to be upset about—
The bombs won’t get us,
I’ve seen what’s to come—
it is the days, the steady
pounding of days, like gentle rain,
that will be our undoing.

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

__________

John Philip Johnson: “I usually don’t talk about this in the literary world, but I’m a born-again Christian who became a Roman Catholic; I read the Bible, say daily Rosaries, and go to church at least every Sunday. I kneel by my bed at night and say my prayers. I believe the world’s problems mostly happen because we don’t love each other like God told us to.” (website)

“At the Communion Rail” by Mark Jarman

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Mark Jarman

AT THE COMMUNION RAIL

When, about to receive the Host for the first time,
I cup my hands as I was never taught
and listen to the priest describe the meaning
of the translucent disc of holy starch,
as I am lifting it, pinched, towards my mouth,
ready too for the goblet of red liquor—
a spirit speaks inside me, fiercer, stricter
than an angry parent’s rote, an old man’s voice,
outraged but with the weakness of the deathbed,
gasping and rasping in a chamber of my heart,
“What do you think you are doing? What are you doing?”
And into that same chamber, I shout back—
only I can hear this—I shout back
a response never considered for this rite:
“I’m doing this! To hell with you! I’m doing it!”

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

[download audio]

__________

Mark Jarman: “I hope that my faith is best described in my poems, but for a description of my belief apart from my poems, I would refer to the Nicene Creed. I grew up in a tradition without a creed, so now to be practicing in a church that has one, especially this one, I find particularly meaningful. The language of the Nicene Creed is moving to me simply in itself.” (website)

“I Find It Difficult to Talk to My Bible Friend” by David James

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David James

I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO TALK TO MY BIBLE FRIEND

I have a friend, actually, a husband of my wife’s friend
who uses Bible verses to respond
to any issue.

If homosexuality comes up in the conversation,
he quotes a line
of scripture, word-for-word, his tongue like a wand

ending the discussion. Then he stands there,
happy in his certainty.
If we talk about what’s beyond

the grave, beyond the slow climb
into the earth, he recites, with a flare,
chapter and verse to claim his kingdom.

I admire his ignorance. For everything, there is an answer.
He never doubts or wonders. His prayers,
he knows, enter into the open ears of the divine.

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

[download audio]

__________

David James: “I am a tried and true Episcopalian. Writing poems, and maybe all writing, is a spiritual activity. The artist’s job is to wallow around in the unknown and believe he’ll find something worthy—which is the definition of hope, really. I think that’s why I write: to express my hope.”

“The Transformation” by Red Hawk

Red Hawk

THE TRANSFORMATION

What prayer or magic spell or luck
leaves us breathless, thunder struck
just from looking in each other’s eyes
across the breakfast table? Surprise
of love comes as a kind of Divine Grace,
as if I’d never seen your face
before and now am stunned that you adore
the likes of me; whatever for

I do not know but now you’re stuck
and seem enamored of my face, its every ruck
and deep crevasse your sheer delight; it defies 
all reason. Yet this spell causes us to rise
and with no word we tenderly embrace.
The sweetest feelings rush to fill the space
as if God came in through an open door
and we are nothing like we were before. 

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

__________

Red Hawk: “Poetry showed me the way to Our Creator. Early on, I realized what appeared in the poems was beyond what I knew, had known, or could know. The poems showed me the right way to live; then, in order to deserve the right to continue and receive, I had to begin to live as the poems indicated. From poetry, a man of little faith began to operate solely on faith that he would continue to be given the material to write poems. So far, this faith has never deserted me.”

“Little Angel” by Albert Haley

Albert Haley

LITTLE ANGEL

is bent over black coffee, drinking
insomnia for going on twelve hours.
The Big Guy Upstairs just handed out
Alpha Romeo Charlie 2-9-9
and the sloppily filed flight plan
to punch into the computer.
Some plan. Like so many, this wannabe
thinks all it takes is a college degree, set
the controls, and it will be wheels down,
trim flaps, and proceed to baggage claim. 

Put that aside in order to let sober eyes
make sense of green blips on a field
of black. Call out course settings 
while up in the cockpit the man or woman 
is turning pages of a magazine. 

It’s true. They think I Am Very Important
and therefore somehow, some way
People Like Us can autopilot past life’s mid-airs,
bank and slip around the swollen eyes
of storms, get a free ride on the jet stream.
Not how it works, though, in a cosmos
where the effort in the murmuring control
tower goes on every hour, every minute
of every day. Focusing all atoms
of existence in a warping and wooing
of reality that has no exact word for it. 

Fate? Faith? Inspiration from beyond?
Sure, call it whatever and remember
to throw in a wing and a prayer.

Making sure you reach the destination.
Getting you eased onto the runway. 
Trying to do it without your ever knowing
what showed up a minute ago on the screen. 

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

__________

Albert Haley: “Sometimes I find myself pondering how one-third of the Hebrew scriptures are poetry. Or that Jesus of Nazareth speaks and teaches like a poet, not a fundamentalist minister. This poet’s gift seems to have been passed on to Mary Karr and Franz Wright whose verse carves out divine mysteries. I guess I’m saying I’m interested in what can’t be seen, yet feels as real as smooth stones held in the hand. Words on the page that become signposts, signaling, ‘Something just happened here.’ Trying to explain how it feels to have been run over by light.”