1 July 1916

I keep a list of interesting lines for when I want to write a poem, but haven’t had a particular bit of inspiration strike me. This poem came out of a note I wrote to myself which said, “Last words pinned to the inside of a jacket before leaving trench.” The title comes from the date of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, in WWI, which was one of the largest conflicts in that war, and the archetypal trench conflict in history. Hope you enjoy!

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Marie, if bullets come
from my side, remember
to keep my casket
shut with stone.
I will not stay in
a trench,
but crawl to the other side.
My comrades are bound, beyond
the line that I must cross.
Let our children hear
that their father died
for them.

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Sacramental Vision

Instead of posting poetry by yours truly, I’ve decided to showcase a writer I recently heard about named John Leax. Here’s a bio from www.thehighcalling.org:

Dr. John Leax is poet-in-residence at Houghton College in Houghton, New York, where he has taught literature and writing since 1968. He pursued graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University writing seminars. He is a serious gardener, has a contagious passion for sailing, and has been married 37 years. In the meantime, Dr. Leax has published three books of poetry, a novel, and several volumes of prose, all listed at his web site. His latest book is Tabloid News, a poetry collection from WordFarm, 2005. Recently, he launched Houghton College’s online Christian Literary Magazine Stonework. John is a member of The Chrysostom Society.

It’s always good to see a Christian poet doing good work and not making a cliche of himself. Here’s the poem I found today:

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Sacramental Vision

Sometimes in my dream
he is still alive.
We stand at the fence
talking about the garden.
“Plant kohlrabi,” he says,
and I remember the way
he’d slice white wafers
from the bulb, offering
them to me balanced
on his knife blade.
I would eat again
that sharp sacrament
and join myself
to that good world
he walks, but I wake
in time
and know my flesh is one
with frailty. The garden
I must tend is dark
with weeping, grown up
in widow’s weeds.

From The Task of Adam – 1985


Turning

If I put the needle to the grooves,
let them cruise over me, my own
unruly car with your hands lashed
to the wheel,

I would find in those folds
the garden bursting, friends flying
off of bridges, like they had
two weeks to live;
at the most,

there can only be seventy-five
minutes of you in one sitting.

The record turns, black and bruised,
and pops itself into the fuss
of the middle, the speakers
twitching the night goodbye.

I never turned off, into a ditch,
grooves to the earth’s vinyl.
I don’t have a sleeve, closed up
by cardboard thanks and
liner notes.

Still the turning ends: the returning
will end, but not before I take
one more listen, rubbing my eyes
with it and grinding its valleys to plains.

-W.B. Hurst

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Christ in Watercolor

Here’s a poem that’s been sitting in the back catalogue for a while and gone through multiple revisions so far [This is draft #5]. It’s been submitted to a few places and keeps getting sent back, so it might take a lot more work to get it out. See what you think!

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    I

My Father has sent me
to find bread in the wilderness,
or, if there is no bread,
to discover loaves in the earth.

The tide of the dust
lifts and bathes me
to my waist. As I wade
the ever-pleating sand
rubs my soles and chips away
flakes of unyielding flesh.

I have seen cities form
and crumble with the coming
of the clouds at morning,
their parapets milky-white
in the scaffolding of the sun.

    II

Music has not flowed from
the stones for days; echoing
through the thick breeze, voices
wander in search of ears
to claim them. Their language
is one I speak,
but not my native tongue.

My eyes do not see
clearly the shadows
that rise as rocks mask the sun.

    III

“he has joined the tribe
of the desert,” they will say,
and i will not live
to correct them.
my gut has risen to force
its way through my chest;
hunger and starvation
converse in the silence.

    IV

Finding a speck in my eye,
i have stopped to gaze at its size.
What seems a boulder
is now a grain;
light carves a pass through it
as through still waters.

The scabs on my soles
have fallen away,
leaving new flesh
under their veil.

    V

Clouds drift and tumble across
the horizon, jutting their parapets
higher across the plain.

I float on each new tide,
a chunk of driftwood that
seeps with all knowledge
of where it is directed.

My Father will not come
to me but I will go
to Him. All was buried
in sand, and I was fed.

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[Having trouble? Read Matthew 4:1-2.]

Thanks for reading!


Fragments

After a good round of revision (and a long break from posting), I’m fairly content with this poem. I spent a good while last night arranging lines, and I hope it was worth it. Notice the two-three dimeter (except in two particular lines in the last stanza). Anyway, enough talk:

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Fragments

Dogs rifle through arms
of grass, murmuring.
Cars slouch idle, shells
of men, on all fours.

Fuel from rusted cans
marks the twisting veins.
Fog fills every hole;
muted searchlights roam,

unnoticed, the beasts
of men jerk parched noses
skyward, seeing thunder
and hearing its source.

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This poem has been accepted to an online literary journal, Word Catalyst. It appeared in the February 2010 issue at wordcatalyst.com. Check it out!