It is enough,
enough to suffocate within
a stinking hollow, deep inside
this rock. For I am now
no better than a cur,
sent howling from the door
before the housewife's broom.
And so I cry and bite my tongue
and will not eat the wretched loaf.
I cannot taste the cup.
I will not eat the bread.

Go forth!

 

What insane thoughts would drive me back
to gather up the crumbs of Babylon,
to face an anguished mob and cry,
'Repent!'? What shall I give
to fill the gnawing emptiness
that hollowed me and tears them still?

Go forth and stand!

I sit
within the rock.

They come.
They come with all
the ominous impatience of
a thousand prophets.
Before our eyes they pass,
leaving anxious minds
enraptured by their frenzy.

The seven trumpets blast
their eerie tones until our skulls
send back an echo of their own,
a message shaped from notes of wind.
Our hearts rejoice,
and with the thunder on our tongues
we open mouths to prophesy.
But truth is sealed
and no one comes to write
our babbling.

Go forth!

The wilderness inflamed,
a jealous sun pours forth his wrath
and kindles shrubs and brush beneath
my feet. I stand
upon the mount, burning with
the fire.  But oozing dampness drowns
the flame that might have warmed my heart.
I cannot go.
I will not stand among
the ashes of Gomorrah.

Go forth and stand!

And at that hour
I felt the ground beneath
me tremble.  The mountain split
in two. I fell beneath
the weight of emptiness. The quake
had rent my heart and bared
it to my own demanding eyes.
How will I stand what I have seen?
How can I go?

 

They're gone.
Infuriating life was quenched
by its own fire.  The song
of polished symbols lies
wrenched within my infant 
memory.  And all alone I sit,
with burned out hopes of seeing past
my squalid soul to find
a good excuse for man.

Go forth!

Their faded forms now flicker through
my incoherent mind:
an exhaled breath,
a burned out match,
an earthen twitch --
diminished images
as dying seconds add
their weight to history.

Go forth and stand!

But still---they left
their pencil marks on space and time,
scars to stir a crippled mind.
So now at last I stand and search
the tongue-less universe
in hope of finding in it still
the slightest whisper of
some God.

Just speak
and I will go.

--- Mahlon H. Smith

 

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* Author's note: This is a revised version of a piece based on 1 Kings 19
that was first published in
,
 the magazine of the Methodist Student Movement,
volume 21/5 (February 1961) p. 1.

Author's sketch: In vocation
based on John 5:6-8
(December 1968)


Collected Poems
of
Mahlon H Smith

copyright 2005
all rights reserved