Anna Kamieńska, “A Prayer That Will Be Answered” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Anna Kamieńska’s poem “A Prayer That Will Be Answered” from Polish Poetry of the Lsat Two Decades of Communist Rule and is translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh. Anna Kamienska was a poet, translator, critic, essayist, and editor. She published numerous collections of her own work and translated poetry from several Slavic languages, as well as sacred texts from Hebrew and Greek.


Lord let me suffer much
and then die

Let me walk through silence
and leave nothing behind not even fear

Make the world continue
let the ocean kiss the sand just as before

Let the grass stay green
so that the frogs can hide in it

so that someone can bury his face in it
and sob out his love

Make the day rise brightly
as if there were no more pain

And let my poem stand clear as a windowpane
bumped by a bumblebee’s head


Previous poems in this series:

Kwame Dawes, “Peach Picking” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Kwame Dawes’ poem “Peach Picking” from The Georgia Review, Spring 2005. Kwame Dawes is a contemporary poet, born in Ghana and spending most of his youth in Jamaica.


From the dusty road under acacia trees
the house looks like a dream rising in the sharp

clean colors from the common green, passive sea
of unremarkable land, no surprises. She lifts the tarp

and gathers gently the bruised peaches, their water
so near the skin like a blister, the childishness

of their tender peel—how little it takes to scar
them. She fills baskets, planting fruit in a nest

of fresh damp straw, while she counts out
a song that turns into words; a song that feels

as old as the indigo sky and the stoic brick house
teetering like an unsettled boat in the open field

in the middle of nothing: a body with no context,
just the language of loss haunting as a low country hex.


Previous poems in this series:

Nicholas Wolterstorff on the Neverness of Loss

While reading through Nicholas Wolterstorff’s powerful book Lament for a Son, I came across this moving description of how tragic loss leaves a hole that cannot be replaced. In this book Wolterstorff, who taught philosophy at Calvin College, the Free University in Amsterdam, Notre Dame, and Yale, chronicles his own journey through grief after the loss of his 25-year-old son, Eric, to a mountaineering accident.

These words helped put words to a loss our family is dealing with as my 21-year-old nephew died tragically just over three weeks ago. While we hold firmly to the faith-filled hope of eternity in Christ, we also wrestle with the painful reality of living without one we love so much. Wolterstorff gives a word for that which I find so real and fitting: the “neverness” of loss.

Gone from the face of the earth. I wait for a group of students to cross the street, and suddenly I think: He is not there. I go to a ballgame and find myself singling out the twenty-five-year olds; none of them is he. In all the crowds and streets and rooms and churches and schools and libraries and gatherings of friends in our world, on all the mountains, I will not find him. Only his absence.

Silence. ‘Was there a letter from Eric today?’ ‘When did Eric say he would call?’ Now only silence. Absence and silence.

When we gather now there’s always someone missing, his absence as present as our presence, his silence as loud as our speech. Still five children, but one always gone.

When we’re all together, we’re not all together.

It’s the neverness that is so painful. Never again to be here with us—never to sit with us at table, never to travel with us, never to laugh with us, never to cry with us, never to embrace us as he leaves for school, never to see his brothers and sister marry. All the rest of our lives we must live without him. Only our death can stop the pain of his death.

A month, a year, five years—with that I could live. But not this forever.

I step outdoors into the moist moldly fragrance of an early summer morning and arm in arm with my enjoyment comes the realization that never again will he smell this.

As a could vanishes and is gone, so he who goes down to the grave does not return, he will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more. (Job 7:9-10)

One small misstep and now this endless neverness.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 14-15.

Grief: a poetic reflection

falling fast in a dark shaft
with no handholds or bottom below

cast out on rough seas alone
struggling to stay above the waves

walking ghostly among the corporeal world
or like the only fleshly body in a landscape of phantoms

nauseous stomach like something within needs to be expelled
yet empty inside with a sucking black hole fixed at the center

a multi-story building crashing down upon all around
scattering debris and forms unmade and unidentifiable

cold—ice cold—stripped bare in Arctic air
and burning in a waterless desert under a scalding sun

the numbness of all this existing inside
concurrently with everyday, ordinary life

The Weekend Wanderer: 11 July 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Churches reopening“Churches, Coronavirus, and The New York Times” – Earlier this week The New York Times published an article with this title “Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Cases.” The lede said, “The virus has infiltrated Sunday services, church meetings and youth camps. More than 650 cases have been linked to reopened religious facilities.” Now, at first blush you may say, “Oh my, how could churches be so foolish!” But then, without diminishing how serious everything is, you may stop and consider 650 cases across 50 states with total cases of more than 65,000 in the nation and say, “What a minute. Do these statistics really support the claim being made?” And then you might read this article by Ed Stetzer, former head of LifeWay Research and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, and you reassess everything.


Supreme Court“What the Ministerial Exception Will Mean for Religious Employers” – Very significant rulings have come out of the Supreme Court in this past month. Several in the past week and a half have made significant impact in relation to religion in America, and this week brought a decision that put debate around religious liberty squarely at the center. “The Supreme Court defended religious liberty on Wednesday, bolstering and broadening the so-called ‘ministerial exception.’ In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that the Constitution protects the freedom of religious organizations to hire and fire employees who play a vital role in fulfilling their religious mission.”


harps“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” – This letter published in Harper’s seemed to cause quite a stir online this past week. While not at first glance related to faith and culture, it actually is about a certain kind of faith and culture. There is a clash of ideologies in our public sphere that is bringing a strange alliance of different groups. Here, artists and intellectuals as varied as Wynton Marsalis, Malcolm Gladwell, J. K. Rowling, and Salman Rushdie came together to sign onto a letter calling for the respect of free speech and the open exchange of information and ideas in a culture that is often aimed at cancelling and public shaming. A friend pointed me to Fredrik deBoer’s assessment of this called “Ending the Charade,” which is brief and will get you thinking. Also, at the Convivial Society, L. M. Sacasas directs our attention to the way that digital media plays into this debate in “The Material Sources of Free Speech Anxieties.”


Asian American Collaborative“Asian American Community Tackles Anti-Blackness In Chicago” – Last week, community members from the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC) marched from Chinatown to Bridgeport to fight anti-Blackness. WBEZ in Chicago interviews Ray Chang, the President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative and also the Ministry Associate for Discipleship in the Chaplain’s Office at Wheaton College. You can listen to the thirteen-minute interview at the link above, but also find out more about this even at the website for the AACC here.


Mel Lawrenz“Working Through Traumatic Loss and Grief: Interview with Dr. Mel Lawrenz on his new book, A Chronicle of Grief – When I moved to Milwaukee, I served as the college pastor at Elmbrook Church for five years. Mel Lawrenz was the Senior Pastor of Elmbrook at that time, and his daughter, Eva, was part of the college ministry I served. I still remember hearing the shocking news that Eva passed away unexpectedly in 2017 at the age of 30. Mel had written previously about grief and trauma, but when I received a copy of his book, A Chronicle of Grief, I knew it would be more personal and powerful. Here is an interview of Mel by Jamie Aten, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute.


AP-immigration-trump-cf-170126_12x5_1600“Evangelical group writes to Trump urging him not to end DACA” – “A group of Evangelical leaders are writing to President Trump this week to urge him to reconsider plans to resubmit a filing to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Seven religious leaders encouraged the president to leave DACA in place until Congress passes legislation that permanently protects Dreamers, the young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. The Hill reported this week that Trump is expected to refile paperwork this week to end DACA.”


monreale“Rehabilitating the Quadriga” – This may seem a little off the beaten path, but I came across this 2013 article by Peter Leithart on rehabilitating the Quadriga, while writing a book review that I hope will come out this fall. The Quadriga is the fourfold sense of Scriptural interpretation with roots in the early church fathers: literal sense, allegorical/theological sense, tropological/moral sense, and anagogical/eschatological sense. While usually discredited in discussions of modern models of biblical interpretation, there is a movement afoot to recover figural or allegorical reading of Scripture, not in the sense of fanciful readings, but in the sense of regaining the theological meaning inherent within the literal reading of Scripture. Leithart does a good job of summarizing it all.


Ennio Morricone“Ennio Morricone’s life in pictures” – Okay, we are all over the place today, but if you did not hear that Ennio Morricone passed away, you should stop for a moment and take a look at this quick summary of his life in pictures. Famous for writing the scores for “spaghetti westerns” directed by Sergio Leone, such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, Morricone continued to work on film scores, including those with more overtly religious themes. He received numerous Oscar nominations for his film scores, including that for The Mission, which was sometimes described as nearly overwhelming the movie in its power.


Music: Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile, “Scarcely Cricket,” from Not Our First Goat Rodeo.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]