Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Kevin Hart

I discovered the Australian poet Kevin Hart through the off-hand recommendation of Ben Meyers on some random post of his, and scribbled the name down, hungry for a living Christian poet worthy of commendation by a theologian! I'm still working my way through one of his collections, Flame Tree, but I have already fallen in love. The poem below is my favorite so far, and I also read it as a blessing for my brother and (now) sister-in-law at their rehearsal dinner Friday night, both being wonderfully eschatologically-minded and planning to do international mission work in the future. In light of Hart's poem, my own afterward is a kind of satirical mirror, something I wrote more than a year ago in the midst of a minor poetic renaissance with Wendell Berry's sabbath poems as the central impetus. With that in mind, enjoy!

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The Last Day

By Kevin Hart

When the last day comes
A ploughman in Europe will look over his shoulder
And see the hard furrows of earth
Finally behind him, he will watch his shadow
Run back into his spine.

It will be morning
For the first time, and the long night
Will be seen for what it is,
A black flag trembling in the sunlight.
On the last day

Our stories will be rewritten
Each from the end,
And each will end the same;
You will hear the fields and rivers clap
And under the trees

Old bones
Will cover themselves with flesh;
Spears, bullets, will pluck themselves
From wounds already healed,
Women will clasp their sons as men

And men will look
Into their palms and find them empty;
There will be time
For us to say the right things at last,
To look into our enemy's face

And see ourselves,
Forgiven now, before the books flower in flames,
The mirrors return our faces,
And everything is stripped from us,
Even our names.

- - - - - - -

Marcionites, Unite!

O friends of the earth, you are
my enemy. There is a
violence within me—it is
irreconcilable. Your
friendship is despicable,
your stewardship revolting,
your hospitality a
farce. As if the world will not
end. Ever. Your eyes are blind
to the fire of God—it is
coming, and you haven’t a
prayer. Your conservation will
come to naught: a laughingstock
of misplaced priorities.

Where, O huggers of trees and
bastard children of mother
earth, will your vaunted crea-
-tion be then? It will be done.

And the lilies and the sparrows,
the lions and the lambs, the
trees and tombs and skies and seas—
don’t you know? The elements
will be consumed! Consumed by
the mouth of a God repulsed
by your ways; and more, by the
dirt, and muck, and sloppiness
of your holy ground—your land—
your seasons—your mercy seat—
your infestation—your hell.

Thank the God of the heavens
that a day of judgment is
coming. For you and your ilk.
For you and your beloved
dirt. For you and that which the
eternal neither loves, nor
forms, nor sustains, nor enters.
Our God is in the heavens,
and we will bid this wretched
place a final farewell at
last. On second thought, keep it;
who’d want the thing anyway?

2 comments:

  1. Your search for Christian poetry is proving to be a great resource for me. Hart's imagery is fantastic, and you can really feel that he has been to a spiritual place, where "books flower in flames", where scripture becomes a mirror that reflects our humanity and current situation.

    There's also a distinct sense of Australia in his work, I can't put my finger on exactly where that comes from.

    This polemic at the end of the final poem is quite strong - not sure if I feel similarly. Not sure that Christians should be staring at the stars in the gutter, but more radiating their light and warmth to people in the gutter, and to attempt to steward or have dominion over the earth as God stewards us/has dominion over us and everything - "Our God is in the heavens, and we will bid this wretched place a final farewell at last. On second thought, keep it; who’d want the thing anyway?" Jesus asked "will I come back and find faith on the earth? I estimate that the state of the earth will be a sign of that.

    What is your opinion?

    David.

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  2. David,

    Thanks for the continued reading and comments! It is likely that the fault lies in the author, but my poem is intended satirically. The name of the title is taken from Marcion, the second-century heretic who separated the evil creator god of the Old Testament from the god of love found in Jesus. Matter was evil and spirit was good for Marcion. I tried to take that spirit (so prominent today in Christian circles) and expand it to the point of absurdity. At the very least, I'm glad you picked up on the absurdity!

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