The Mole!

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to spend a few days at Yale University. It was a wonderful opportunity to be in the company of both theologians and poets. The host of the event was Christian Wiman, who teaches Literature and Religion at Yale Divinity School. In his book Hammer is the Prayer you find The Mole. Wiman was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer several years ago and he speaks honestly about his ongoing encounter with cancer. Read what he says “So, here’s a poem about cancer. I have been living with cancer, myself, for a number of years, but this poem is not about me. It’s about a kind of cancer that I don’t have, but I wrote it at a time when I was going through treatment. It’s called “The Mole”, and the title changes meanings during the poem. One thing that might be helpful is that about midway through, several things are mentioned that are…Canes Venatici and the Four North Fracture Zone are a geological formation and a constellation, and they’re simply in this list of things that flash through this man’s mind as he’s going through various treatments and losing his mind. In the poem.” I tenderly offer you this poem, almost in itself a prayer. As you read his lines you will no doubt be reading between the lines, and it is there you will find prayer and hope.

The Mole
by Christian Wiman

After love
discovers it,
the little burn
or birthmark
in an odd spot
he can neither see
nor reach; after
the internist’s
downturned mouth,
specialists leaning
over him like
diviners, machines
reading his billion
cells; after
the onslaught
of insight, cures
crawling through him
like infestations,
so many surgeries
a wrong move
leaves him leaking
like overripe fruit;
after the mountain
aster and ice
wine, Michigan
football, Canes
Venatici and
the Four North
Fracture Zone
shrink to a room
where voices grow
hushed as if
at some holy
place, and even
in the kindest
eye there lurks
the eternity
to which he’s been
commended; after
speech, touch,
even the instinct
to eat are gone,
and he has become
nothing but
a collection of quiet
tics and twitches
as if something
wanted out
of his riddled
bones, the carious
maze of his brain;
as the last day
glaciers into his room,
glass and chrome
so infinites-
imally facet-
ed it seems
he lives inside
a diamond, he breaks
into a wide
smile, as if joy
were the animal
in him, blind,
scrabbling, earth-
covered creature
up from God
knows where to stand
upright, feasting
on distances, gazing
dead into the sun.
“The Mole” from Every Riven Thing. Copyright © 2011 by Christian Wiman. 

Holy God,
I borrow the lines of Psalm 139
as I offer you my prayer:
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;

Words fail me as I attempt to offer thanks and praise
for this gift of life. As life unfolds, the mystery and majesty
become so apparent. As the years go on
so I become ever more aware of the complexity and intricacy
of the body.
I pray for friends whose days are presently consumed
with the uncertainty of life, and whose every energy is
spent in the battle of overcoming cancerous cells as they
invade the body.
Comfort those whose healthy energy is spent caring for
a loved one, joining the fight, and offering hope.
Hear this my prayer and hear all our prayers
day and night, night and day. Amen.

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