How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?

How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?

We crept up, watched a black

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Sleeping Child

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Sleeping Child

man shovel dry burst of dirt

into the air.  Engrossed,

he didn’t see me till

my friend hawked hard and then

stepped out of sight.  The man

jerked back, convinced I’d come

to spit on him.  Held there

by guilt that wasn’t fairly mine,

I braced for what he’d say.

Instead, he smiled, forgave

the sin I hadn’t sinned,

and turned back to his work.

I stumbled off and yelled,

Goddamn you! At my friend,

who laughed.  Behind us, sand

exploded from the hole, caught wind,

and drifted slowly down

past headstones.  Within a month

two boys found the black man hanging

from a hickory, his face

vague in a mist of gnats.

and every time they told the story

the gnats grew thicker, fiercer.

But I believed.  I ached

the guiltless ache of dreams

and shuddered.  A family that

I never saw mourned him.

Their lives changed and that change

spread out past my small-boy

imagining — though I

tried hard to follow it,

at twelve already remembering

how, ten years old, I’d stand

before the mirror and aim

a flashlight in my mouth.

White cheeks glowed red.  I knew

that when I flicked the switch

I would no longer shine

with bloodlight, like stained glass.

I would return to the flesh

I’d always been.  Back then,

I thought that if I could

I’d forgive nothing — I’d
change everything.  But that’s

before I learned how we

get trapped inside the haunts

and habits of this world.

While we drink coffee, gossip,

my cousin’s daughter pounds on

the piano.  It drives me nuts.

But Ellen’s used to it.

The child plays till she drops,

and then we lug her

— elongated and limp — to bed.

My cousin tucks her in,

chooses one music box

from dozens on a shelf, winds it,

and sets it by her child’s

damp head.  The girl hums, drifts

from one world she creates

into another.  A dark

circle of drool surrounds her head.

My cousin loves her with

the tenderness we save

for something that will ruin

our lives, break us, nail

us irretrievably

into this world, which we,

like good philosophers,

had meant to hate.  This world,

this world is home.  But it

will never feel like home.

by Andrew Hudgins from his book of poetry, “The Never Ending,” published by Houghton Mifflin Company (Boston, New York, London) 1991

I read the above poem in my “Art and Christ” this last week as the new semester has begun.   I always find refuge in the frank and candid nature of Hudgin’s poetry.   He reminds me of the paradox that I am spirit and human, and that seems a good place to begin as I and the students venture into another season of learning at the University.

About abiggerworldyet

Visual Artist Brother Sojourner College Professor Christ follower
This entry was posted in Faith Walk and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?

  1. Orion Nebulae says:

    most excellent, and i love the accompanied art. thanks for the post!

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