Friday, April 2, 2010

Striking a Chord


Billy Collins, U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003, says that every poem is about death and gratitude. April is National Poetry Month and today is Good Friday. So today, I will use poetry to illustrate how Good Friday strikes a cord within humanity. During this Lenten season, I spent some time following the Stations of the Cross at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church each Friday. On one occasion we used a modern set of meditations which at times brought into focus the suffering that occurs in humanity; suffering that brings to mind the passion of Christ.

Today I am offering one of my poems, “An Ancient Harp,” and lyrics form two of Bob Dylan’s songs, “Not Dark Yet,” (for which this blog is named), and “Shelter from the Storm.” Not Dark Yet has some “Why have you forsaken me?” moments: “my sense of humanity has gone down the drain,” “I was born here and I’ll die here against my will,” “Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer.” Note in Shelter from the Storm some specific Good Friday references such as “my crown of thorns,” and “they gambled for my clothes.”


An Ancient Harp
by Charles Kinnaird

When have I ever been far from pain?
Its shadow varies with humanity’s seasons.
And when have I ever been far from the rain
That sweetens the forest breeze?

A gunman appeared, that pursuing one,
His weapon cold and quick.
His bullet traced a familiar pain,
Making my old wound visible.

You have seen the gunman
Stepping briefly from the woods.
When you refused to give him credence
I felt the pain.

A mountain gorge speaks to the heart.
A beautiful cleft in violence torn.
And in my solitary pain I think
That I am not alone.

A madman runs down city streets
to bring redemption to our insanity.
A saint gives flesh to a common hope
to bring redemption to our personhood.
A poet weeps upon an ancient harp
to bring redemption to our pain.





Not Dark Yet
by Bob Dylan (From Time Out of Mind, 1997)

Shadows are fallin' and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is runnin' away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writin' what was in her mind
I just don't see why I should even care
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

Well, I've been to London and I been to gay Paris
I've followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down on the bottom of the world full of lies
I ain't lookin' for nothin' in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.

I was born here and I'll die here against my will
I know it looks like I'm movin' but I'm standin' still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.



Shelter from the Storm
by Bob Dylan (From Blood on the Tracks, 1975)

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

Now the bounds are broken and they can't be retired
A one more journey to the woods, the hole were spirit tired
It's a never ending battle, for a peace that's always torn
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose.
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'

Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine.
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born.
'Come in,' she said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'



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