Maybe she climbs inside your car with force
enough to leave you lost among familiar streets,
orders you to take her home,
deliver her (or save yourself),
never asking where you meant to be.
In the passenger seat, her will
means more to you than safety
so you offer her gloves,
a scarf – stillness, all the mercy you can find.
I’ve set myself a new task for 2017: I plan to write from the Psalms, using a transliterated Hebrew word or phrase from a particular psalm as the acrostic guide to unlock a poem in conversation with its definition. These will be pretty drafty until I have a chance to work them through with trusted editors in the summer, but they are a start, which is the best thing the New Year can hope to offer.
I’m starting here with
Psalm 46 and engaging with God as the ever-present, or meod nimsa, help in trouble. In that phrase, there’s a force or muchness to what has already been found, made able or available, and it put me in mind of a woman who entered my sister-in-law’s van uninvited in a grocery store parking lot on New Year’s Eve. At a pivotal moment in the calendar, this surreal experience so disoriented my sister-in-law that streets she’s driven for decades now seemed foreign. This reminds me that our encounters with divinity aren’t always comforting or calming, and sometimes arrive with such abrupt force that they seem invasive. In the poem, I’m after a certain ambiguity: will delivering the woman, or refusing her, be part of salvation? Is the driver offering the passenger mercy, or is the passenger herself a visitation of grace? Does the car’s containment and stability offer stillness, or does the invader bring it with her? Psalm 46 is not a quiet psalm – there is uproar, surging, quaking and shattering. Perhaps the ever-present help of God is the small upheaval that opens the door to something more precious than mere safety. Perhaps our willingness to take refuge in what we didn’t plan is part of what we stand to witness.
Write about a storm; redefine stillness.