As we enter Lent, I have been meditating upon what we can learn from the Muslim Ramadan, whether we should fast from dawn to dusk, then feast in thanks for having survived another day in the wilderness. Here’s a poem I wrote in 2004, followed by a link to a chapter of my unpublished novel about Jesus, Witnesses to Glory.
In the wilderness
“I will lead you to the desert and speak to your heart.” – Hosea 2: 16
Lines inspired in part by chapter 5 of God – an itinerary¸ by Regis Debray
I have been wandering in the desert,
thirsting for the sweet springs of your love.
And yet it is in these arid plains
that the great absolute of God’s plan has come down to me from the mountains,
a revelation from the high hills,
which I could not have heard in the noisy raptures of the soft cities of the valley,
where once we walked in innocent ignorance of good and evil.
I am hungry for your sustenance.
I call unto the Lord:
turn into bread these rocks that bleed my feet,
and he rejects the temptation,
requiring faith in his plan
as the price of citizenship of this promised land.
I have walked through the seven gates of his holy city;
I have stood on a balcony
and seen naked Bathsheba sunning herself in the gold of noonday;
I have sung his Song of Songs.
But I have been expelled from Eden,
fearing the angelic sword threatens the cover I have grown to shield my uncarapaced humanity.
I needed this loneliness.
I hunger and thirst after what I did not value sufficiently when it was within my grasp.
Only here, wounded, lost, abandoned,
can I begin to be found worthy of being restored to what has been denied me,
beginning to learn the beginnings of the lesson
that not the image of my heart’s desire shall I be given,
but the shape of a joy I can only barely sense the colour of,
the taste of a honey no hive can swarm to,
and other senses I know nothing of,
the harmony of a tune at the edges of perception,
a string vibrating to a mathematic profounder than any Pythagoras ever knew.
Your melody has a scale no throat can utter.
I hear it like an overtone of this desert wind.
I built a stone cairn to commemorate the climb I had made from the foothills,
and when I sought to add new stones I found myself alone with the wind,
a pebble cold in my hand.
Let no one add or take away from the completeness of my word, cried a voice I could not put a name to.
And scarlet tongues seared my flesh with a nameless Pentecost,
a fire spirit inflaming my lungs,
so my voice is a raven croaking on the battlements of Babel.
I cry out like a babe at the breast for what I want,
and am given what I need,
which is the very opposite of what I am calling for.
The dry night is full of stars like pinholes into another universe.
The moon is a silver sickle
cutting down the man I thought I was
so it may be cast into the refining fire.
And suddenly I wake;
morning dries the tears from my cheeks,
and scorpions scuttle away
under the very rocks I pillowed for my head.
The holy city shimmers like a mirage over the skyline,
an upside-down image of a place
within whose walls
I may rest my head tonight.
If indeed that is God’s will for me.
The Way may be a long march,
or a place I stumble across in the next nano-second.
I am crossed the event horizon into what black hole.
None may escape its strange attraction,
not even the light I imagine I can see at the end of the tunnel.
“The Temptations”, a chapter from Witnesses to Glory.