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Job’s Rant

Job 3: 3-10
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May darkness and death’s shadow claim the day
When I was sent to bear the curse of earth.
May clouds blot out the night that gave me birth
And drown it in the densest blackness.  May
Malediction blot each brazen ray
Of sun that dared reveal my coming forth.
.
Why did that dawn refuse to lock its doors
And shut my mother’s womb?  Why did the year
Include it in creation’s calendar,
And bring to birth my then-unheard-of horrors?
Why did it not stay barren, so those hours
Would not exist that let my life appear?
.
Why will you not in pity, God, allow
Me discharge from this living death that terrifies
Me?  Would my sun had never risen!  Show
Me why a useless man should live.  I know
That all my wealth was only a disguise
For doom upon my mother’s labor.  Scorn
Is heaped on me, while I sit on this heap
Of ashes in a wretchedness so deep
All I can do is wish I’d not been born.
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The Dark Comes Early

“… In the winter of your years the dark comes early….”
—Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
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Too soon, the dark comes early, deep as winter’s
Freeze.  The dreaded season’s solstice nears
As shivering souls grow sunless in the surly
Wind that blows through thinning hair, and enters
Shaded minds, invading them with fears.
Nights lengthen, as the memory weakens.  Wearily,
Where time once seemed to race, it slowly saunters,
Looking for lost light, though none appears.
Imagined fragile photos of youth’s pearly
Dawn, reveal that nothing’s left but splinters
Of discontent, and hours that feel like years.
For, in one’s winter days, the dark comes early.
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Cynthia Erlandson is a poet and fitness professional living in Michigan.  Her second collection of poems, Notes on Time, has recently been published by AuthorHouse, as was her first (2005) collection, These Holy Mysteries.  Her poems have also appeared in First Things, Modern Age, The North American Anglican, The Orchards Poetry Review, The Book of Common Praise hymnal, and elsewhere.

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16 Responses

  1. Mary Gardner

    Ideas well expressed and clear, Cynthia, with skilled use of enjambment that kept me at rapt attention to the end.

    Reply
  2. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Job’s lament is brought into clear focus and plumbs the depths of his despair. “The Dawn Comes Early” is a perfectly apt description of our elder years. I was particularly taken by these two lines:
    “Where time once seemed to race, it slowly saunters,
    Looking for lost light, though none appears.”
    These are thoughtful words creatively expressed.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you very much for your comments, Roy; I’m happy that these made a good impression. I’ve always had a lot of empathy for Job. And as time goes on, the pathos of aging seems to be an unavoidable theme.

      Reply
  3. Brian A Yapko

    Both exceedingly fine poems, Cynthia, though I favor Job’s dramatic monologue — a vivid portrait of abject despair. The unobtrusive rhymes and enjambment support a build-up of tension which mirrors this poor man’s emotional state as he reaches his breaking point. I’m glad to know that Job’s agony depicted here is not the end of the story and that better days will come! This must have been an emotionally wrenching poem to write. As someone who has great interest in dramatic monologues, I’m rather curious as to what inspired you to write it.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      I really appreciate your thoughtful comments, Brian. I’m glad you think the enjambments are done well; sometimes I wonder about that. I’m not sure how to explain why I was drawn to write about Job, except to say that I’ve always empathized with him and have been simultaneously fascinated with his story, and repelled by it — maybe like the way people can’t resist staring at an accident or tragedy?

      Reply
  4. Jeffrey J Essmann

    Wonderful work, Cynthia. A perfect reimagining of Job’s lament and, while I’ve never been a big Stoppard fan, your poem made me respect his ability to inspire such beauty.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      I feel honored by your praise, Jeffrey— thank you. I actually read R&G Are Dead in high school, and finally re-read it not long ago. Somehow it really fascinates me.

      Reply
  5. Yael

    Both are very good poems, and my favorite is Job’s rant. It vividly expresses the wretchedness which Job must have gone through, while still providing a sophisticated and enjoyable reading experience for the audience, which is amazing in itself.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      It makes me happy that you enjoyed reading these poems, Yale. Thank you for your comments.

      Reply
  6. Paul Freeman

    Job’s rant puts any rant I’ve ever had in the shade, Cynthia. Well expressed, the narrator’s anger is palpable.

    I was equally taken by ‘The Dark Comes Early’, depressing though the subject matter is to those of us nearing the winter solstice of life. This is the type of poem that deserves a wider, younger, school and university-age audience, since it so succinctly conveys the reality and fears of getting old in an instructive, matter-of-fact manner.

    Two fantastic reads. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you so much, Paul! I truly appreciate your kind words. It seems to have become increasingly difficult to avoid the subjects of suffering and aging.

      Reply
  7. Cheryl Corey

    “The Dark..” is a beautiful poem, in spite of the subject. My parents are in their “winter days” and I often feel that I am on the cusp of the same; and I have a 90-plus aunt who until recently lived at home with an aide. All it took was a fall trying to get out of bed and she broke her leg. Now she’s warehoused at a nursing home. Just like that. Your opening and close of “the dark comes early” is very effective. I concur with Paul. This poem deserves a wider audience.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you so much, Cheryl. “Warehoused” is a good word for it, unfortunately.

      Reply
  8. Margaret Coats

    I read “The Dark Comes Early” first, and considered it nearly perfect in the choices of word and image to suit the topic. Therefore, I’ll tell what I didn’t like! In particular, the word “photos,” although it’s ordinary usage, seemed not to suit the classic diction of the rest of the piece, whereas “pictures” is perfect. I also smiled at “solstice,” because why should anyone fear the solstice when days get longer afterward? Still, I wouldn’t change it; the word at root means “sun-stop” and thus can stand for The End after which life does not go on.

    “Job’s Rant” is also very well done, but I beg to differ with Brian Yapko about your enjambments. They are extremely obtrusive. Unless you use them for a special effect, such as showing Job’s exhausted breathlessness, they seem to grate unpleasantly on the reader. And that’s another special effect you might aim for in this piece. But then re-reading “The Dawn Comes Early,” I noted the enjambments there as well. In addition to “winter’s/Freeze,” the effect comes across in “surly/Wind” and “pearly/Dawn.” But this poem is third person omniscient, and can’t employ the same kind of effects as “Job’s Rant,” even though topics are similar. In other words, Cynthia the poet should not sound like Job the ranter. The more noticeable “Freeze” in “The Dawn” serves the subject appropriately, but when you collect your works, I would place these two poems at a distance from one another.

    The artistic expansion of the Biblical text in “Job’s Rant” is masterfully done, and both poems come to a satisfying end that sounds like musical resolution (after an effective reprise in “The Dawn Comes Early”). Nice work!

    Reply
  9. Cynthia Erlandson

    I’m very grateful for your kind and helpful comments, Margaret. I see your points about “photos” (I think you’re right that “pictures” would be better) and “solstice.” And, as I mentioned to Brian, I’ve always had some doubts about certain enjambments; I understand why some are better than others; and again, I think you’re right that some in the above poems are awkward, and pretty clearly done for only the sake of a convenient rhyme. Your thoughts about placing these two poems apart from each other is something I probably wouldn’t have been able to see, so thank you for your objective view.

    Reply

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