Christian Poems VI: Carson, Schnackenberg

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[I WONDER]

By D.A. Carson

I understand that matter can be changed
To energy; that maths can integrate
The complex quantum jumps that must relate
The fusion of the stars to history’s page.
I understand that God in every age
Is Lord of all; that matter can’t dictate;
That stars and quarks and all things intricate
Perform his word—including fool and sage.

But knowing God is not to know like God;
And science is a quest in infancy.
Still more:  transcendence took on flesh and blood—
I do not understand how this can be.

The more my mind assesses what it can,
The more it learns the finitude of man.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez, ed. (Scribner Poetry 1997), 180.

__________

SUPERNATURAL LOVE

By Gjertrud Schnackenberg

My father at the dictionary-stand
Touches the page to fully understand
The lamplit answer, tilting in his hand

His slowly scanning magnifying lens
A blurry, glistening circle he suspends
Above the word “Carnation.”  Then he bends

So near his eyes are magnified and blurred,
One finger on the miniature word,
As if he touched a single key and heard

A distant, plucked, infinitesimal string,
“The obligation due to every thing
That’s smaller than the universe.”  I bring

My sewing needle close enough that I
Can watch my father through the needle’s eye,
As through a lens ground for a butterfly

Who peers down flower-hallways toward a room
Shadowed and fathomed as this study’s gloom
Where, as a scholar bends above a tomb

To read what’s buried there, he bends to pore
Over the Latin blossom.  I am four,
I spill my pins and needles on the floor

Trying to stitch “Beloved” X by X.
My dangerous, bright needle’s point connects
Myself illiterate to this perfect text

I cannot read.  My father puzzles why
It is my habit to identify
Carnations as “Christ’s flowers,” knowing I

Can give no explanation but “Because.”
Word-roots blossom in speechless messages
The way the thread behind my sampler does

Where following each X I awkward move
My needle through the word whose root is love.
He reads, “A pink variety of Clove,

Carnatio, the Latin, meaning flesh.”
As if the bud’s essential oils brush
Christ’s fragrance through the room, the iron-fresh

Odor carnations have floats up to me,
A drifted, secret, bitter ecstasy,
The stems squeak in my scissors, Child, it’s me,

He turns the page to “Clove” and reads aloud:
“The clove, a spice, dried from a flower-bud.”
Then twice, as if he hasn’t understood,

He reads, “From French, for clou, meaning a nail.”
He gazes, motionless.  “Meaning a nail.”
The incarnation blossoms, flesh and nail,

I twist my threads like stems into a knot
And smooth “Beloved,” but my needle caught
Within the threads, Thy blood so dearly bought,

The needle strikes my finger to the bone.
I lift my hand, it is myself I’ve sewn,
The flesh laid bare, the threads of blood my own,

I lift my hand in startled agony
And call upon his name, “Daddy daddy”—
My father’s hand touches the injury

As lightly as he touched the page before,
Where incarnation bloomed from roots that bore
The flowers I called Christ’s when I was four.

In The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, JD McClatchy ed. (Vintage Books 1990), 535-537.

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