Two of the following poems appeared first in the pages of The Living Church, as part of a series of Epiphany poems. The first appeared in the January 2, 2000 issue, while the third appeared in the February 6, 2000 issue.

 

 

 

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I. Matthew 2: Magi

 We have seen his star in the east …12522214943_ca09cfc117_z

At the far edge of our science
we aren’t looking so much at stars anymore
as at the older light
that was what the stars were before they were stars,

looking back over our shoulders,
one might say, at our own footprints,
our own cosmic path
across the unimaginably distant past,

tracing subtle electro-magnetic fluctuations,
the first whisper in the still tissue of space,

 an infant’s piercing cry,

a sound older even than the light
the pulse of energy that was, then, the whole universe.

 

II. Matthew 20: Septuagesima

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?2549767723_65cfa31592_m

Some things I think it’s better not to question:
the sharp, clean smell of the ocean,
three pretty girls walking side by side
in the sunshine,
the glitter in the air of a light snow
on a spring morning.

They just are what they are,
the goofy extravagance of some smiling god
who doesn’t seem to know when to say “enough.”
The sun sets in a red cloud beyond the Pacific.

She says she loves you
and laughs and reaches across the table
and touches your hand.

Or, let’s say, you work two hours in the shade of the afternoon
and the boss, with a wink, slips you a full day’s pay.
Sometimes life is like that.

You taste a chocolate ice cream cone
while leaning over the railing
on the end of the pier,
watching a boat slide out of the harbor
under a full sail,

and Ella Fitzgerald is singing on the radio,
for heaven’s sake, Ella Fitzgerald,
and you catch your breath,
because it is more than you had expected.

 

III. Luke 9: Transfiguration

 And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

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Why not say it was the altitude,
the hot sun, the long hike up that winding trail,
the lack of food and drink, the thin air,
wishful thinking?

Why not say we were dreaming,
seeing things, hearing phantom voices
in the warm breeze,
manufacturing convenient meanings,
telling wild tales like half-drunk sailors
of what was — or wasn’t — there?

Why not just say that we didn’t see
whatever in the world it was we thought we saw?
That would be easier.

It was late. We were young.
It caught us by surprise, and left us wondering:
without, then or now, even a clue
how to put into words what it was we wanted to be true.

The first image is a stained glass of the Transfiguration at Tewkesbury Abbey; the second image is “Double Rings of a Supernova Explosion” from the NASA Archives; the third image is the cover of “Ella Swings Lightly”; the fourth image is an aerial view of Mount Tabor from Israel Tourism. They are all licensed under Creative Commons. 

About The Author

The Rev. Bruce Robison has served as rector of St. Andrew’s Church, Highland Park, in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh since 1994. He is something of an old-fashioned evangelical, but with Benedictine tendencies — and with a vocational affinity for life as Village Priest, Country Parson. Bruce occasionally serves in adjunct positions at Trinity School for Ministry and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

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