Standing Uneasily

In the most recent publication of the journal Poetry, there is a piece by Jennifer Horne in which she describes the work of the poet and of poetry. She writes “I embrace poetry as a subversive force, for once you are split open by a poem you can only become whole again by refashioning yourself with its material.” These past many months of pandemic have become the stimulus for many writers, and I am confident we will continue to see many publications reflect on the experience of this long uncertain journey from isolation to community. Horne’s poem “Out Walking” printed below, is a variation on the pantoum form with a repeating line from stanza to stanza. I found the poem most compelling. As you ponder Horne’s poem ask yourself how you have stood in these past months. Where is your comfortable space? How different do you live in comparison to pre pandemic times?

Out Walking
We don’t know how to behave.
As in adolescence, we stand uneasily
At awkward distances from one another.

As in adolescence, we stand uneasily
In this new space, revising
All that we’ve been taught.

In this new space, revising
The meaning of breath, hand, touch, near,
Our bodies become foreign to us.

The meaning of breath, hand, touch, of near
Misses and close calls, becomes obsessive.
Even the air between us is charged now.

Misses and close calls become obsessive.
Better to stay in the one safe place,
Alone but uninfected. The new monasticism.

Better to stay in the one safe place
Than become a number. The days
Stop counting themselves, simply march on.

Become number. The days
Are the same and utterly different.
Only a fool would complain about being alive.

The same and utterly different,
We don’t know how to behave.
As in adolescence, we stand uneasily
At awkward distances from one another.

Prayer:
Holy God,
many are those in Holy Scripture
who have stood uneasily.
David before Goliath,
Samuel before Eli.
Sarah at a distance
overhearing the three strangers talk to Abraham.
Mary pondering the words of the angel Gabriel.
Peter hearing the cock crow for the third time.
So it is with me Lord,
it is hard to do what I know is right knowing
it will bring
about consequences.
So it is with me Lord,
looking for excuses to delay the
setting aside of all things to follow.
Help me to move beyond what I deem a safe place
and enter into once again the mix of life and love,
good and bad, joy and sadness.
As you spoke the names of David, Samuel,
Sara, Mary and Peter,
so you speak my name.
With an open ear and open heart
help me be of one mind in my following,
one determination in my faithful believing,
in my waking and in my sleeping.
Lord God,
hear my humble prayer. Amen.

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