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Part II of the Coffee Trilogy. (Part I can be found here.)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.    —John 1:1

A light without a shadow could exist
like a lonely star in lonelier space;
a shadow though, like someone we have missed
should need a light, as memories need a face.
It’s true that someone seeing nothing more
than darkness might object that darkness can
exist without a light, but here we are
communicating now: there must be more.
There must be more than just the normal span
we try so hard to grasp. Yes, here we are.

Perhaps you sit right now as I once sat
and rest your head against a window pane,
or jotting little notes of this and that,
avoid the spaces that you can’t explain.
The moving finger writes…  and all the while
the mighty Milky Way is fading out;
indeed the stars, and you, and I must fade
nor have we always been. What reconciles
such imperfect ends? Both faith and doubt
agree that none of us has been self-made.

You said, “So what if faith and doubt agree
that something can’t create itself? Who cares
if nothing’s been self-made?” And I, Since we
were made—the stars, and you and  I—then there’s
a rub. Something must have always been.
It’s only  logical  then, right? Your stare,
your rolling eyes, so ready to be done
but me, I just could not suppress my grin.
The  logic!  The logic was always there!
The  logos  as you read in John one, one.

Those moments come like sugar from a spoon
and though I know I can’t go back to sleep,
the little tumult stirs away so soon
and then the darkness seems so old, so deep
and my one, tiny splash so small, so new…
Outside the stars are gone and only snow
is twinkling back at me. Still I’m not done
with this, another piece of work, but who
will hear these broken echoes, I don’t know.
And yet I know I’m not the only one.

Somehow the words I’ve written still seem wrong.
It’s almost dawn. how can I know if this
has been a letter, verse, or some love song,
or a long prayer for the times I miss—
and all of that, a fragile hedge against
the spreading snow. “Kyrie eleison” slips
out past light and darkness, shadows and stars.
We all shall know at length what’s now condensed,
shall know all meaning is relationships
inside this little universe of ours
wherein love moves the sun and all the stars.

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Daniel Kemper is a systems engineer living in California.


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18 Responses

  1. Gail

    I love it. Conceptually, that is. I can never find the rhythms in some of the (seemingly–to me!) more complex poems you all write. So the form has escaped me. Don’t take any account of that. For me to chase down the form of a poem is almost as preposterous as a rabbit pursuing a coyote.

    But I’m wanting a ‘dunamis’, too. As in . . . ‘upheld by the word of His . . .’ The system is sustained. You know, I just realized I should go read Part I; maybe I missed it. Maybe it can be squeaked into Part III?

    Maybe I’m out of line here?!

    Reply
    • Gail

      I’ve read Pt. I now–the ‘power’ is definitely there in the Name. I think I’m out of my depth.

      Reply
      • Daniel Kemper

        Hi Gail,

        Thank you for taking this on. This poem has more variations in meter than I like and I suspect; more revision is likely. Form-wise, it’s loosely an ode. ABABCDECDE, but not strophe, anti-strophe etc. It’s taking on a lot. If you have difficulty, know the poet is having them too! 🙂

  2. Cynthia Erlandson

    Logic / logos / John one, one — the relationships of which you write are profound. And your last Dantean line is perfect.

    Reply
    • Daniel Kemper

      Thank you Cynthia! Much appreciated. Trying to move more intensely from generic God (though derived from a ‘what’ to a ‘who’ somewhat in part 1) to a relatable one.

      Reply
  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Daniel, this beautiful, engaging and intriguing poem has misty messages and ethereal images that float in my periphery and tease me with their vague familiarity. I want answers. I want all the words the poem whispers to be made flesh, to sit opposite me, and to shout out the reason for our existence… but then, that would be a totally different poem. I’m sorry if my comment is strange… I feel lost and found at the same time, whatever that may mean. That’s the unusual wonder of your work… to me.

    Reply
    • Daniel Kemper

      Hi Susan,

      Yes, the speaker is calling out for relationship in an imagined debate with an absent other. In a sense, an unreliable narrator, who at the end reflects on the disarray of his own discourse despite efforts to the converse, and in the emptiness of other human relationships realizes, in his relationship with God, that all meaning is relationships. That is the meaning of life, if you will.

      ” I want answers. I want all the words the poem whispers to be made flesh, to sit opposite me, and to shout out the reason for our existence…”

      I’m hoping to make a flesh answer step out of the text in the third (and then epilogue), but revision has been slow going.

      Reply
  4. Margaret Coats

    Daniel, this is indeed a piece of very careful work, yet you make it read as a conversation. It’s quite full of varied things to follow. The easiest for me here is following the stars through the stanzas to see how the heavens are moving. I hope you or someone else will identify the allusions. You give us John the Evangelist in your epigraph; Cynthia found Dante’s Paradiso; I see Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For those of us with serious interest in preserving tradition by bringing it up again in our poems, this is quite a treat. Also love the imagery in the first part of stanza 4, where you beautifully renew your coffee considerations. And although I appreciate the literary devices, I’m also listening closely to your profound thoughts. I will look forward to Part III, but take your time. Poems like this are worth it!

    Reply
    • Daniel Kemper

      Thank you so much for your engagement and encouragement! I’m hoping to be able to bring it all together by the third, though this one might yet go through revisions. These traditional voices just jump into my head as the lines and concepts form. It sometimes happens so much it needs taming.

      Reply
  5. Mike Bryant

    I like this contemplative poem. Many of these same lines of thought run through my head, at night of course, unbidden. I missed the references others saw, but one stood out for me – a favorite of my Dad, “The moving finger writes” from The Rubayyat, which is about how important it is to choose your words carefully because they cannot be unheard. Words have a certain life of their own, the power of creation, or destruction, within them. That simple fact, that creative power of words argues convincingly for a Creator. “Let there be light.” And those words set our tiny universe on its tiny course, and God fashioned everything from that light so we could love, and be loved, as He does.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Actually, Mike, the line “The moving finger writes, and, having writ/Moves on”” is not about choosing words carefully. It is about how powerless we are to change what has already happened. Read that example from Fitzgerald’s Rubayyat (Farsi for quatrains) again:

      The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
      Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
      Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
      Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

      The Finger here is not that of the writer, but that of the deities which take note of our fate.

      Reply
      • Mike Bryant

        That’s very interesting C.B. I was trusting my Dad on that one. I’m going to have to do some research. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

      • Mike Bryant

        C.B. I’m sure you’re right about that meaning, however, I found this interesting take:
        https://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/56/messages/737.html
        In this take, the moving finger is thought to be the fickle finger of fate!
        Of course, either way it’s not exactly about the words we speak. I do think Dad was giving some good advice, though. Thanks.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Yeah, Mike, your dad served you well. And you serve him well by recalling his instruction.

    • Daniel Kemper

      Thanks Mike. I got my Rubayyat from my grandfather as it happens. Another favorite that stuck in mind:
      Ah Love,
      Could thou and I with fate conspire
      to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire
      would we not shatter it to bits and then
      remold it nearer to the hearts desire!
      The writing theme does follow through all, though I think “the moving finger was emphasizing fate”, even though it’s not inconsistent with your mention.

      Reply
  6. C.B. Anderson

    There were many things about this poem I thought were off-key, but I don’t want to get into that right now. I do, however, love excursions into speculative theology, and if you can get Evan to send you my e-mail address, or get him to send me yours, then I would gladly send you a copy of my latest book, which is filled mostly with examples of speculative theology.

    Reply
    • Daniel Kemper

      Hi C.B., always great to see you around. I feel like I can feel the poems strong and weak points and would be grateful if you could pick one (more might be too much) off-key that I could meditate on. It might show up in a revision here or perhaps help better guide the next in the series (whose revision is coming painfully slowly). In any case, thanks for giving this a go.

      Reply
  7. Daniel Kemper

    Overall, here’s the loose gist of what I’m aiming for.

    S1
    The miracle: That there is something at all, rather than nothing.
    Light exists independently; shadows are derivative.
    Objection: Darkness is not derivative. It could exists.
    Re-assertion: If darkness alone could exist, we would not be here. And we are here.
    Communicating

    S2
    The missing other remembered, spoken to.
    All things end. As we.
    Just as we have an end, we have a start.
    We, no “thing” that exists has always exists.
    Self-creation is logical contradiction/fallacy.

    S3
    But since we’re here, something must have always been here, right?
    Inescapable logic – logic is timeless, eternal.
    So THAT’s what’s always been here.
    (“Logic” is really a skeleton of “Logos”. That’s the drift though.)

    S4
    Revelatory understanding returns to coffee motif.
    Speaker returns from reverie.

    S5
    Speaker still feels something missing.
    Unclear of the purpose of such rumination.
    Perhaps only a defense against fear of death (the spreading snow, the speaker’s whitening hair).
    Christ have mercy. We all shall know a la Paul, Corinthians…
    Meaning/meaningfulness is relationship.
    Not just a cold apologetic.

    Poem 1 – Develops a self, a soul, touches on the ‘who-ness’ of the maker.
    Poem 2 – Develops the maker’s relationship nature, touches on personal, on Christ
    Poem 3 – Develops Jesus from pages of the past and into present sense.
    Epilogue – Tie it all back to the coffee

    Reply

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