Philippians 2:6-11

In an effort to get my Koine Greek up to par again, with the hopes that I can move into Attic and Ionic soon, I’ll be posting my personal translations on here for all to see and comment on. Since my goal in learning Attic is so that I can translate poetry, I’ll begin with one of the most poetic Koine passages: Paul’s recitation of a hymnic formula in Philippians 2:6-11. Since I’m doing one verse a day, I’ll be editing this every day.

(6Gr) ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ

(6En) who, possessing1 the nature2 of God, did not consider it robbery3 to be equal4 with God,


1I chose this wording, eschewing the ἐν that naturally occurs, in order to bring out the meaning of ὑπάρχων. This word (Strong 5255) connects to (Strong 5223) ὕπαρξις, which is the term for a possession or property.
2Hotly debated word throughout the ages, I translated it as “nature” in order to avoid the theological slipperiness of “form.” Though both meanings are possible, Paul’s use of “equal with God” makes it clear that “form does not get across the whole story.
3The use of “robbery” here makes tons more sense when contrasted with Paul’s use of “possession” earlier.
4The word here is is-os, meaning “equal,” which you might remember from the math term isosceles, meaning “equal legs.”

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Theodicy

God is the lightning
bug that I forget
about until He
blinks.


Blind Faith

Tiresias taps
his cane, a prophet
singing his way
into old Jerusalem.

Blues ooze from
the gash of his mouth;
he can’t wade out
into the swirling pool.
He’s devout
as far as
he can feel
with a three
foot pole and legions
of eyes nailing
him to the soiled tile wall of the
subway.


Souvenirs

I wonder if He keeps
the wood around his neck,
splintered and red, pried
from the tree He died on,
like we do.

Does He keep mementos
of His moment in death,
pulling them out of a
splintered box each week,
like we do?

Perhaps it doesn’t
bug Him, like spots on a
mirror He keeps close.
Or does it remain like a
hurricane on a spindle,
turning slowly, once and always?


Carnival


Past the ticket takers, into the arch,
ribbon-tied with rosary-rugged
wood. Unturned soil clings to my boot,
new earth for wilted cuttings. The lines
reach back past the bordering fences.

Into the pulsing masses, past the young,
ribbon-tied with rosary-rugged
hair. A steeple without a point or
base, pliable, the gate rusts and swings
wide against the airy smiles, polite

as they hear the ride drifting by them,
ribbon-tied with rosary-rugged
skin. Mournful creaking holds the structure
upright, fear that it might shatter keeps
the passengers in, clutching their bags.

Will it come round again? The whirling
dervish that spins with child octopus
arms; the face which so squarely met
mine leaned back to the crimson circus
cushion. The carny flips his wrist and pulls.

The tin tornado loses its cen-
ter, spilling its innards onto
the soil littered with con-
fetti. Children detach
and forget the ride,
slouching away
going home
with no
change.


Howdy folks (or folk)! It’s been a little while since I made a post so this is a little something to make up for lost time. This poem has been a full month in the making and has come only in pieces to me. I completed it last week and then spent this week revising it and getting it to a point I’m partially comfortable with. Hope you enjoyed it!


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:

———————-

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


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!

——————————-

    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.

—————————–

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

Thanks for reading!