Sullen, somber skies—
Heavy leaden
tears are shed in
sorrow. Heaven cries.

Thunderous sobbing grief—
Thrashing, crashing;
Flashing, gnashing;
Death defying belief.

Salvic memories—
Rise redounding;
Soar rebounding;
Echoing unease.

Midday darkness creeps—
Lachrymosa;
Mortua ossa;
All creation weeps.

Crimson raindrops fall.
Darkness scheming;
Light redeeming.
Done for. Done for all.

 

Lachrymosa: weeping
Mortua ossa: dead bones

 

James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.

 

 


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7 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    James,

    If nothing else, this is a great instance of poetic compression. The very last line, especially, should strike a chord in the heart and mind of anyone with the least bit of Christian sensibility or sentiment. If I have any cavil at all with this poem, it would be with the two middle lines of the second stanza, which, being a bit overdone, struck me upside the head. But for an additional accolade, leaden/shed in is an exquisite rhyme. I wonder sometimes whether I am going to be able to keep up with all the novitiates whose learning curves are so much steeper than my own.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Point taken.

      But note that the poem parallels the crucifixion event with a passing thunderstorm representing the “darkness at midday.” Every stanza parallels something about each. In the second stanza “Thrashing” is Jesus in agony on the cross, paralleled with the “crashing” and “flashing” of thunder and lightning alongside with “gnashing” representing the family/disciples of Jesus (John and Mary specifically) experiencing their own suffering, agony, and grief. (The word is also referential to Jesus’ descriptive words of “uttermost darkness,” “place of the hypocrites,” or “furnace of fire” “where men shall weep and gnash their teeth.”)

      The following phrase, “Death defying belief.” is intentionally unpunctuated to convey a dual meaning insofar as Death is defying the belief/faith of Jesus and his followers while, on the other hand, Jesus’ faith (and ours, by association) is a “death-defying faith,” especially post-Easter when it became clear that the “sting of death” had been broken.

      The entire poem could be annotated in this manner but I will stop here.

      As you say, the poem is “compressed” to the point where there is hardly a single word or phrase that does not carry its ffair share of historical or theological weight.

      Reply
  2. C.B. Anderson

    I’m sorry to say, James, that I was not able to see the parallels and allusions on my own, but now the scales have been lifted from my eyes, and I am grateful that you decided to explain. I forwarded this posting to a devout and well-informed friend of mine. (He and his wife (who teaches comparative religion at Smith College) just published a book about the Inklings (C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams & J.R.R. Tolkien)). He thanked me and said it was a good one. I had written him something funny earlier: In a certain sense, for working people, every Friday is a good Friday. I sometimes wish I could make that so, but I do a lot of work on weekends.

    Reply
  3. James Tweedie

    “TGIF” The “G” can stand for “good” or for “God” (in either a casual or pious sense). I suppose it just depends!

    Ah, the Inklings! Best private club ever although everything I have ever read written by Barfield is way over my head and not anywhere near as accessible as Lewis or even Tolkien. Williams, on the other hand, I know nothing about. Dorothy Sayers, W.H Auden and T.S. Eliot were close friends and/or associates of the group and Sayers is occasionally referred to as a “satellite” Inkling. I suspect that being a woman was her main disqualification from membership in the fraternity.

    C.B., I dare say you have very interesting friends!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      As it happens, James, the title of their book is THE FELLOWSHIP. I know little or nothing about Dorothy Sayers, and these friends of mine go back to Wesleyan University in the late 1960s. Owen Barfield is indeed sometimes hard to follow, but I still have a copy of his SAVING THE APPEARANCES on my bookshelf, which I might at some time try to get through for the third time. Someday I hope to read his POETIC DICTION. I can’t imagine what that’s about. It’s all grist for the mill, and we all do, or try to do, the best we can.

      Reply
  4. Margaret Coats

    Well done indeed. “Heaven cries” reminds me of the single tear from the skies in the movie “Passion of the Christ,” which hits the earth and causes the massive earthquake in which the veil of the Temple is torn in two from top to bottom. With the poet’s viewpoint, you are able to move on and see all creation weeping, then conclude with a perfect punning line.

    Reply

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