How often we find within scripture everything we were looking for all along. Just opening up the Holy Bible may reveal a choice verse, completely unasked for and unanticipated, yet perfect and timely in its provision. How, then, does the poem offer up its own language and space as something of deep contemplation, a measured and constant going back to God?
What was Good Friday in 2000 like for D. M. Reyes, for instance, or Middle Burntfork for Jory Mickelson for that matter? In “Vigil”, Mickelson ends their poem with these gripping questions: “What accompanies / those who wait without reason, / to no end? // Lengthener of the impossibly long hour, how much / longer before the light?”
There is more of that penetrating introspection in Lois Roma-Deeley’s poem, “Teach Me How I Should Forget to Think”: “…do you know // how very hard it is to be a human being? / To pick and choose one’s way among the many / crowded streets which lead / to broken bodies hanging in the square?.... let me rest in your waiting arms and kiss the cheek / of every misplaced hour— // were we not made for more and yet just for this?”
Perhaps the epigraph to Daniel Tobin’s stunning poetic excerpts offers a lovely answer, like an antiphon. The wisdom comes through a citation from Teilhard de Chardin: “No, you do not ask anything unattainable of me. You merely, through your revelation and your grace, force what is most human in me to become conscious of itself at last. Humanity was sleeping—it is still sleeping—imprisoned in the narrow joys of its little closed loves.”
Indeed, in our humanness, how do we find God over and over again—to restore things, to speak to God, to redirect our gaze squarely at what remains of greatest and only importance?
Perhaps it is in piety for Crispin Rodrigues, or under “Susanna Wesley’s Apron” in Rena Ong’s poem, where there are rumbling “ten tumbling children”. As Jose Luis Pablo writes in “Prayer of Creation”: “Blessed be the child of Nature / who attends to his mother’s wishes. // Blessed be the worshipper, / he will never slip shame under / his clothes.”
Maybe contemplation means “kneeling on fears” for Felix Cheong. Maybe for Nicole Ann Law, it resides in “the artistic endeavour” as “an act of co-creation and cooperation with the One who brought everything into being”. For Migs Bravo Dutt, one may look for God in “The Details”, just as Nicole Emma Low discovers the divine and respite in more nature, whether it is “sky” or “horizon”, “silver swallow-tailed clouds” or “bright gentle moon”.
From G. C. Waldrep, we get “Mechthild says God is a bell”. Then we enter his “Gertrude Suite”, and glean what Gertrude of Helfta might have to say about suffering, atonement, even photography or epistemology. For the “Atonement” instalment, Waldrep gifts us these staggering lines: “A mirror for sorrows. In that, a tool. / Events are what happened. / How do you know? / Well, the stain. The correspondence. / But chiefly the correspondence….”
As if to echo and offer resonance, we come face to face with Tobin’s poem “(Mirror)”. Here, Tobin tells us “we overcome death / by finding God in it”, and concludes his poem thus: “When I died, it was as though he was looking at Earth / from an immense distance, blue atmosphere, the green / of vegetation, then ever-more luminous—thought itself, // then ever deeper: the darkness of suffering, growing / sharper with consciousness, the widening inflorescence. / And God gazing out, gazing in at the flung reflections.”