.

The Wind

Listen, listen! Do you hear it?  It is on the march tonight—
The incessant winter wind that blows throughout the wood and glade.
Like a spectral army passing through the night in grim parade—
Do you hear its restless movement where no moonbeam sheds it light?

Do you hear the countless legions as they march both far and near
In the shade of gloomy bowers and across the open lea,
Through the waves of high grass rolling like a tempest troubled sea—
Do you hear their footfalls echo in the wild atmosphere?

Do you hear their creaking wagons rumble down the darkened lane,
And their ghostly drummers beating out a melancholy dirge?
Do you hear from time to time an eerie moaning sound emerge
As their weary voices join to sing a wordless song of pain?

In the gusts that keep on blowing, do you hear their riders charge
On the backs of phantom horses through the tops of twisting trees?
Under angry anvil skies they fly, as if to chase the breeze,
Leaping ledges, trampling hedges, as they tear along at large.

Through the night they keep on racing where no human eye can see,
Blazing trails through tangled forests, dashing down the inky stream,
Speeding forward, fast, and fearsome, yet as a fleeting as a dream,
As they gallop ever onward in their ghostly company.

Like the souls of fallen soldiers trudging homeward, battle worn,
Unaware the war is over, and the victory is lost,
Do you hear them shuffle past you in the woods by winter tossed
In their slow and sad retreat before the bright brigade of morn?

.

.

The Prisoner

“He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
and broke away their chains.” (Psalm 107:14)  

He found himself within a cell of cold, unfeeling stone,
Left there to suffer in the musty darkness all alone,
Like some cadaver locked within a tomb and left to rot,
Abandoned by the living, long forgotten and unsought.

He had no warm apparel to protect him from the chill,
Nor any cheering word or deed to fortify his will
And fill him with a sense of purpose to go on each day,
Assuring him the sun would shine and chase the night away.

The future seemed a dingy shaft with no light at the end,
A long descent into pitch blackness, with no kindly friend
To be his blazing torch from one bleak day unto the next,
To light his path and warm his spirit, cold and sorely vexed.

One day, when he awoke from sleep, he heard a troubling sound
Of grinding gears and heavy stone blocks scraping on the ground.
Then by a light that filtered in, though faintly, from somewhere,
He saw a sight which filled his heart with horror and despair.

The walls were closing in on him—of that he could not doubt!
His cell was shrinking, soon his fragile life would be wiped out,
Pressed by their crushing force, his flesh and bones would soon be spread
Across the stones, like bloody jam across a slice of bread.

He looked at those blank walls as they inched closer bit by bit,
Like some fierce lion moving toward its prey in some dark pit,
Or like some pagan priest who, looming over his next victim,
Prepares to disembowel him to suit a demon’s dictum.

He knew all efforts to seek help were useless from the start
For those who placed him in that cell were men without a heart,
Devoid of mercy, in whose veins ice water flowed, not blood,
As cold as soulless zombies, who craved cruelty for food.

Were he to shout within his cell, his panicked cries would fall
On ears as deaf as those thick walls and hearts as hard as all
The stones it took to build this place of torment and of death,
A lair designed to snare poor souls and snatch their final breath.

Just as the freezing stones began to touch his trembling flesh,
And squeeze his frame, so that he could not move or twist or thresh
His arms about; before the press could mash both skin and bone,
He looked up, and he realized then that he was not alone.

For high above the walls, beyond the roof, beyond the sky
Was One who was attentive to his piteous, lonely cry,
Enthroned in heaven, yet there present with him in that cell,
Whose ways are past all finding out, yet who does all things well.

Transcendent in His sovereign power, and free to work His will
To save him from a crushing death, or leave him in this mill
To be ground up like winnowed wheat and pulverized like flour.
Yes, God’s own purpose would decree the outcome of this hour!

With confidence in God’s strong hand, he called on Him to save,
To free him from a violent end, and from an early grave.
Just then, an earthquake rocked the cell and caused the gears to cease.
The scraping stones stopped moving, and there reigned an eerie peace.

A shaft of light now pierced the dark, where stones had fallen in
And opened wide a gaping hole the moment that the din
Of grinding metal, scraping stones had ceased; so now, his heart
Was calm and quiet as the bright light called him to depart.

He climbed out of the dreadful pit and quickly sped away
Across the foggy marshes as the first light of the day
Dispersed the haze, revealing now the ruins of his prison
Where hope had once lay dead, but on this day had now arisen.

The prisoner had learned what all believers need to know:
When troubles rise around us like four walls that seem to grow
More ominous, unyielding, and impenetrably thick
With each new day, inflicting pain that cuts us to the quick,

When trials seem to wall us in, and won’t let us go free,
When no one seems to understand the sense of misery
That presses in on every hand with crushing, brutal force
Impervious to all attempts to make it change its course,

When in our loneliness we feel abandoned and forgotten,
And silence makes all hope of change seem sadly ill-begotten,
Just when the pressure builds to where we think we will implode,
We must look up to see what God would have us then behold.

We`ll see Him sitting on His throne in majesty sublime
Directing all events that happen in the course of time,
Sustaining us by His own hand, and calling us to trust
That He is mindful of our frame and knows that we are dust.

We’ll find fresh strength in drinking from the well of His sure promise
To work our good in everything; and if, like doubting Thomas,
Were tossed about on doubt’s strong waves, if we will learn to ply them,
Our boat will rise above the floods and won’t be capsized by them.

Though walls of anguish rise to heaven, yet heaven is higher still,
And God will not abandon those submitted to His will,
Though torments squeeze your fragile flesh, with Him you shall endure
And find His grace is all-sufficient, and His love is sure

What keeps us often in our prison is a lack of prayer
So pray God makes your walls fall down, or keeps you faithful where
His providence has placed you for a fierce, but fleeting, hour;
For walls must crack at last and can’t hold back the blooming flower.

God will not spare you every woe, but promises to be
Beside you in your prison cell, until He sets you free!
For when He shakes the earth at last to end all wrong endeavour,
He’ll free you from a fetid tomb to breathe fresh air forever!

.

.

Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth.


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12 Responses

  1. Cynthia Erlandson

    There are many impressive things about these poems. I especially like “The Wind”, for its auditory and metaphorical description of something we can’t see. The rhythm is brought out powerfully by the trochaic meter; and there are some effective uses of alliteration and great examples of imagery. Many exquisite phrases stand out: “the waves of high grass rolling like a tempest troubled sea”; “a wordless song of pain”; “the bright brigade of morn” are some of those that caught my attention. There is much to commend “The Prisoner” as well, including some eye-popping phrases (especially “his flesh and bones would soon be spread / Across the stones like bloody jam across a slice of bread.” !! I did get the sense that the sermonizing stanzas may have gone on a bit too long, though they had their good points, too.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank, you, Cynthia, for your thoughtful response to my poems. The Wind was written some time ago; the Prisoner more recently, although both share a certain “darkness” of mood. When I started to jot dot some initial thoughts and opening verses for the Prisoner, I wasn´t really sure where the poem was going at first, but as it took shape, the idea of the prison serving as a metaphor for oppressive circumstances that close in from all sides, forcing one to look heavenward for help, became clearer to me, as well as the ending, in which the prisoner escapes his plight. I know that it is always risky for poems to become “didactic” in tone, but in this case, it seemed to me that unless the dramatic imagery were given some sort of spiritual interpretation or application to life or human experience in general, the poem would lack a clear meaning, direction, or purpose. That´s why I let the final stanzas stand, although I could possibly express the same thoughts in fewer words at the end.

      Reply
  2. Roy Eugene Peterson

    There are a lot of brilliantly conceived images, phrases, alliterations and rhymes that in both poems are great metaphors of the highest order. “The Wind” provides a masterful description and interpretation of its effects. “The Prisoner” moves from the gruesome contemplation of the dungeon to the change wrought by belief and salvation that completely changes the mental state. After all, as Richard Lovelace wrote in the 17th century, “Stone walls do not a prison make.” Your lengthy poems gave me a lot to chew on and contemplate. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Roy, I appreciate your taking the time to “chew on and contemplate” my poems. I was encouraged by your observations and by the way you see the change in mood toward the end of the poem expressing “the change wrought by belief and salvation that completely changes the mental state.” I also love the quote by Richard Lovelace, which has a lot to do with the theme of the poem.

      Reply
  3. Paul Buchheit

    Well done, Martin! “The Wind” was so descriptive — I felt like I was standing in the center of a windstorm!

    Reply
  4. Tonia Kalouria

    Dear Martin,
    Both poems are wonderfully vivid. The Prisoner literally
    gave me chills as I became caught up in his plight, (reminding
    me of Poe, in fact.) I especially enjoyed that little injection of levity with the “bread and jam” line.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you, Tonia, for your sharing your thoughts about the poems. I am glad you enjoyed reading them. You are the second person who has compared one of my poems, in its mood and imagery, to Poe. I find that in the winter, especially, I am often moved by the change in the weather to write poems in a darker mood that invoke a sense of mystery, melancholy, and the “numinous”.

      Reply
  5. Mary Gardner

    Martin, thank you for these two riveting poems.
    “The Wind” describes wind in the night perfectly. Your metaphors were spot on. The poem held me spellbound.
    The horror of the first part of “The Prisoner” literally gave me goosebumps, but I had to keep reading. I couldn’t look away. Only when I read “Just as the freezing stones…” did I exhale, knowing a reprieve would follow.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Mary, I am so glad that you enjoyed the poems and that they held your attention! Thanks for your feedback.

      Reply
  6. Anna J. Arredondo

    Martin,
    I like “The Wind”, and I enjoyed all of the vivid imagery you used to describe it. I found it interesting that the action takes place in the night; it seems that it is in the night hours when it really comes alive, at least in the imagination.
    Like Tonia, I also thought of Poe as I read “The Prisoner”; the first several stanzas reminded me of “The Pit and the Pendulum.”
    Perhaps in stanza 16, line 3, it should be “That” instead of “The”?

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you for your thoughtful reflections on the poems, and also, for pointing out the typographical error in stanza 16. You are right; the word “The” in line 3 should be changed to “That”.

      Reply

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