.

The Dove Returned

The dove returned! The Earth is dry;
A golden sun lights up the sky.
This ark shall rest on land again
Each creature freed from cage and pen,
Each yearning bird released to fly!

The old world’s gone. We’ll not decry
God’s judgment though we’ll long ask why
He chose us for His mercies when
The dove returned.

A new world waits. So let us try
To bid the sinful past good-bye
And start again. The death of men
We mourn, yet grateful sing amen
That under God’s most gracious eye
The dove returned!

.

.

Shall We Gather at the River?

When I was young my mother sang a hymn
About the River Jordan and God’s throne.
The saints had gathered there to worship Him;
We joined them singing praise and to atone.

I saw this lovely River in my mind,
Its waters flowing past where sheep would graze,
Where birds might bathe, where worshipers might find
Amazing grace despite life’s hurt and haze.

But skeptics in the intervening years
Have called for war on hymns and saints and God;
Condemning hope with empty soulless fears;
Declaring faith as valueless as sod.

Many claim the River isn’t there—
That those who see it have deluded dreams.
Doubters say “perhaps” but just don’t care;
While cynics want it dammed for selfish schemes.

How are we to gather at the River
When they remove the signs that show the way?
When they claim love but sneeringly deliver
Hatred, condescension and dismay?

Can we gather if the path is blocked?
I once was taught to turn the other cheek;
But when my love of God is cruelly mocked
I will not sit in silence. I must speak!

Even if I hesitate and quiver,
My fear means nothing—I love Heaven more.
Yes, my friends, we’ll gather at the River.
Not one of them can keep us from its shore!

How beautiful, this River none can dam,
Which flows beyond a world of spite and sin!
Its waters sing of God’s beloved lamb;
Its holiness surrounds us from within.

.

.

A Very Gentle, Perfect Knight

With April’s piercing showers, Tim was stuck
At home as River Town became a maze
Of mud, and sports were cancelled due to muck.
Though Springtime colors wilted into greys,
Tim’s boredom eased with just a bit of luck:
A book he found about Ye Olden Days.
And so the boy read morning, noon and night
Brave tales about Sir Chivalrous, the knight.

Sir Chivalrous! From centuries long past
When loyalty and valor were revered,
When evil was despised and dragons cast
Into the sea, no longer to be feared.
When chastity and virtue were steadfast
And devils either driven out or speared.
These tales described the challenge all knights face:
To fight for virtue, king and Heaven’s grace.

As dreary April turned to sunny May
Tim set aside his catcher’s mitt and ball.
Instead, he kneeled and swore to never stray
From loyalty to Cross and knighthood’s call.
With cardboard sword and shield of molded hay
He’d vanquish ogres and make bullies sprawl.
Sir Tim decided it would be his lot
To transform River Town to Camelot!

A two-wheel bike served as Tim’s mighty steed
On which he rode to seek where evil lurks;
To school and parks, wherever there was need
To fight for right and humbly do good works.
Sir Tim kept track of every noble deed
And all the grade-school villains some called “jerks.”
He challenged bullies with wise words of shame.
Taunted schoolmates came to bless his name.

But then one day Sir Tim was overcome
While trying to help a sickly boy named Will.
A bully mocked Tim’s words, then wrenched his thumb,
Destroyed his bike and knocked him down a hill.
Tim’s faith was crushed, his noble heart went numb,
So home he fled, defeated, shamed and ill.
He realized he was just a foolish boy,
His cardboard sword a silly broken toy.

Tim’s parents nursed his wounds but worried more
About this blow to Tim’s crusader soul—
For shame can crush a dream down to its core
Corroding faith and leaving just a hole.
But then Tim read Sir Chivalrous once more
And grasped the theme the old knight would extol:
To win is not the reason why I fight.
I fight because I know my cause is right.

Convinced anew his quest could be achieved,
Tim pledged his life to fight with valor sure.
As he grew up dolts mocked him as deceived,
While cynics called him rash or immature.
Tim paid no heed. He lived as he believed.
If I were younger and a bit more pure
I’d be a knight and follow Tim the Brave.
There’s much to fight for—and a world to save.

.

.

Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


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12 Responses

  1. Gail

    Very enjoyable. Forwarding these to my kids. Re: ‘Very Gentle Perfect Knight’–your poem is much more inspiring than my somewhat bleak, prosaic maternal variant: “Even if there were no Heaven, living for Christ is the only thing worth doing.” Generally, followed by, “So honor your mother by being obedient, and do your work!” Your expression of that sentiment is more appealing.

    Reply
  2. Paul Freeman

    ‘A Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, beware;
    replaced art thou with knights and maidens fair,
    a Tale that is a parable, forsooth,
    about Sir Tim and Life’s empowering truth.

    Thanks for the reads, Brian. I am rather partial to the Chaucer-esque.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Coats

    What a beautiful yet varied sample of your poetry! The rondeau form is very much suited to “The Dove Returned”; in fact, this is one of the best matches of fair form to content that I’ve seen. For the river, no matter how it may be obscured, we have persistent signs not only in natural human perceptions and in our memories, but in the first psalm (dealing with life here) and the final chapter of the Apocalypse (hereafter). The knight poem made me recall immediately the 2009 book, An American Knight, a biography of Marine Colonel John Ripley; I believe this hero (in military valor well beyond the call of duty, and in publicly speaking out against false values) had just died when the book was published. If you would like to have my spare copy of this easy-reading work, please ask Evan to give me your address. Congratulations on fine work in these three poems!

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you very much, Margaret! I appreciate your comments about The Dove Returned. This is the first rondeau I’ve ever written so I’m pleased that it works! I’m glad you feel that way about the river — I think it’s important to not let the distractions of modern life and our present cultural challenges to sabotage faith.
      As for Marine Colonel John Ripley, I’m not at all familiar with him. I would love to read this book about him. He sounds like my kind of hero. Evan, does asking you to give Margaret my address via this comment suffice, or should I send you an email?
      Again, thank you for your kind words, Margaret!

      Reply
  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Brian, what a trio of delightful poems to make my Tuesday evening! Congratulations on taking up the rondeau challenge and doing this fair form every justice – praise from Margaret on fair forms is praise indeed. Very well done!

    ‘Shall We Gather at The River?’ is my favorite. It takes me back to my childhood – Sunday School at the age of three and youthful days listening to Bible stories. Not only did they appeal to and expand my imagination, they filled me with love, hope, joy and reason. I particularly like the lines: “How are we to gather at the River/When they remove the signs that show the way?” Your follow on answer to the question is a message of courage and encouragement… and, the most important point… a message of faith that soars above our earthly faith in humankind alone – a big mistake, especially in these turbulent times.

    Last but not least ‘Tim the Brave’. I love the way he trod his own path and even though he got knocked off track by a bully, he continued on his journey undeterred. If I have half the bravery of Tim, I’ll be happy.

    Thank you, Brian!

    Reply
  5. BRIAN YAPKO

    Susan, thank you! I’ so very pleased that you like my poems — especially The Dove Returns since this is the direct result of your rondeau challenge to me. As I mentioned to Margaret, this is the first time I’ve written one. Thank you for challenging me to grow and try new things.

    I’m very pleased that you liked Shall We Gather at the River? The namesake hymn is one of my very favorites and the idea of struggling to get to that river gave me the seed of the poem. If I have a message it’s to say yes to faith even when it’s sabotaged, especially in these challenging, intolerant times — and to stop listening to people who believe everything that they think. I think your message is a generally similar one.

    As for my Very Gentle, Perfect Knight, I think you have well over half of Tim’s bravery! In fact, I’d say you’re pretty much on par. The proof is in your brave poems.

    Thank you again for your kind words!

    Reply
  6. Yael

    I love all three of these poems as they are at once beautiful as well as entertaining. It so happens that Shall We Gather At The River is my very favorite English hymn.
    The Dove Returned is my favorite of the three. The poetic form perfectly captures the subject of the dove returning and I really like the overall imagery which the poem evokes in my mind, thank you.

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you, Yael. I’m so glad you liked this trio! And Shall We Gather is one of my favorite hymns as well.

      Reply
  7. David Watt

    Brian, “The Dove Returned” particularly struck me due to the melody it achieves from its rondeau form, and the smooth execution.
    We need many more Tim the Braves in today’s world. Thanks for presenting this story of virtue and honour undaunted by setbacks.

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      David, thank you for your kind comments! I especially pleased that you liked my story of Tim the Brave! Yes, we need people who are willing to stand up for what is true and good. There will always be setbacks but the fight will always be worth it.

      Reply

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