Painting of the Holy Family by Gerrit von Honthorst‘Stepfather’ by Daniel Kemper The Society December 23, 2020 Culture, Poetry 15 Comments . The hills that Joseph meditated on were black and just a bit like elephants, but if somehow they counterpointed dawn, there was no sign of its deliverance. “Beloved, my beloved, how?—and why!” Against her tenderly-appearing age, a crowd of raging thoughts must have cried out, though Joseph, being just, would want to try to reach beyond the shock, beyond outrage, but being just a man, he was in doubt. A crowd of raging thoughts needs little time, within these darkened hours, to choose their stones— and ample human rules declare such crime is justly served that way. But something hones a different justice now, perhaps, because although disgrace might be removed, it would still be his life that was exposed, not just her shame. A quiet way to use the laws might do, and be better understood; an undesired divorce—it seems he must. “Beloved, my beloved, why? And how?” Rages will find reasons and furies find their forms, and what cannot be bullied now, can be beguiled, and later redesigned: the crowd of raging thoughts would not be through with this man’s mind just yet. For after all, she might be held in secret isolation before divorce, and then for all to view, the grief exposed outside the village wall— a gift to shepherds, dogs, or desolation. The root of raging thoughts mismeasured him, for God chose Joseph, too, and not just Mary, and love is Love, not just some treasured whim, so vengeful thoughts were merely momentary and were deliberately put out of mind. The source of grief, of every leering laugh, was not to be abortively exposed outside the village wall. He was resigned and likely clutching hard on to his staff, his torment slowly spinning down, he dozed. Asleep, how often we have ears to hear what we can’t hear when we’re awake—we’re prone to miss that anger’s root is often fear, and often fear has root in the unknown, but soon in Joseph’s sleep, the still small love from Yahweh: Joseph do not be afraid, it shushed, to take home Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of- the Holy Spirit. Perfect Love thus made his fear depart and faith become a life. The elephantine hills were never black- ened by despair again, nor were they white- ened by the stark and unforgiving wrack of desert glare; instead, the wholesome light of dawn began to open Joseph’s eyes, to sigh, to touch his hair and stroke his hand. His fingers soon unconsciously uncurled, color returned, and he began to rise; and with a love that he had never planned, became step-father of a blended world. . . Daniel Kemper is a systems engineer living in California. 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Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 15 Responses Leo Zoutewelle December 23, 2020 A wonderful poem, Daniel, impressive and often to be re-read! Reply Daniel Kemper December 29, 2020 Thank you Leo– definitely a goal to have poems worthy of a re-read. Reply Yael December 23, 2020 Nice poem! I think there’s a typo in the second line of the last stanza. It should probably be “were” instead of “where”. Reply Mike Bryant December 23, 2020 Fixed, Thanks! Reply Daniel Kemper December 29, 2020 Hi Yael, thanks for both the praise and the catch. Reply Margaret Coats December 23, 2020 Pithy language working out a characterization in scrupulous psychological detail. Explaining any process of thought is a challenge, and here you needed to imagine as well as describe the process. Very well done! I notice the many repetitions of the term “just,” and the care with which you develop this one definite thing we know about the saint. Indeed, this “blended world” has desperate need of a Holy Father, and you begin this year dedicated to him with a worthy portrait. Reply Daniel Kemper December 29, 2020 Oh my goodness, thanks a ton for that, Margaret. I did put a lot of thought into this. I wasn’t really sure how it would go~ Reply Cynthia Erlandson December 23, 2020 I think this is a very impressive portrait! The first two lines of the second verse are my favorites. I love the way the rhyme scheme is carried through. (And “elephants/deliverance” is especially original!) Reply Daniel Kemper December 29, 2020 I’m glad this landed with some impact and some freshness. It’s extra nice to see that the risky elephant rhyme worked. It was tough enough to work them in unobtrusively. Thanks again for your read and response! Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant December 23, 2020 Daniel, this is breathtakingly beautiful. My favorite lines are; “and love is Love, not just some treasured whim,/so vengeful thoughts were merely momentary”, and Joseph’s love shines greater than his dilemma throughout. For me, this poem not only gives greater insight into the enormity of Joseph’s role, but it speaks of all those stepfathers out there who embrace the children of those they love. Thank you! Reply Daniel Kemper December 29, 2020 O Susan, your thoughtful, heart-felt commentary really puff my chest up. Thank you. I really thought a lot about what Joseph must have gone through. That it’s largely unsung doubled up with me when I came upon some commenter who believed that he might have been mute, since no words of his are recorded. (Pretty iffy, I think.) That added some incentive to get his mind out there, as it were. Very satisfying to hear that you think I did well with it. Reply C.B. Anderson December 24, 2020 The complicated ideas presented in this poem, Daniel, are not always easy to follow, but strict attention to the letter of the words invariably leads to full understanding. Here we have a balance between a high degree of difficulty (for both writer and reader) and the immense satisfaction of resolving a problem simply by observing closely the details going into, and coming out of, the text itself. It was subtle, nearly sublime. Reply Daniel Kemper December 29, 2020 C.B. this might be the best commentary I’ve gotten all year. Thank you! Quick question: Do you think I overdid or underdid the nod to Hemmingway? Reply C.B. Anderson January 1, 2021 Forgive me, Daniel, but I’m afraid that I don’t quite know what you mean by “the nod to Hemmingway.” If you care to explain, then I will gladly answer your question as best I can. Reply C.B. Anderson January 4, 2021 Upon reflection, Daniel, the fact that I did not pick up on it carries a strong implication that, if anything, you underdid it. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.