Mark S. Burrows

Contributor Biography

Mark S. Burrows is a poet, translator, editor, and scholar of historical theology. He taught historical theology in graduate theological schools in the United States for

30 years before accepting a faculty chair in religion and literature at a German university where he taught from 2012–2020. He is a leading figure in the fields of spirituality and the arts, both in the United States and Europe, and is an award-winning poet and translator of German poetry. His recent collection of poems is entitled The Chance of Home (2018), and, with his friend and colleague Jon M. Sweeney, he has published two best-selling (and award-winning) volumes of poems inspired by the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart: Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart (2017) and Meister Eckhart’s Book of Secrets (2019). In 2013, he published a new translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours, under the title Prayers of a Young Poet; that year, he also published an English translation of the Iranian-German poet SAID’s 99 Psalms. His forthcoming volumes include a new translation of Hilde Domin’s poems (This Wandering Radiance) and a book exploring the poet Rilke’s spiritual vision entitled Heartwork and the Art of Living: The Spiritual Vision of Rainer Maria Rilke as a Guide for Our Times. He edits poetry for the international journal Spiritus. A Journal for the Study of Christian Spirituality and for the journal ARTS. He recently returned to the US and currently lives in Camden, Maine. www.msburrows.com

At the Last

"I recently read in a book (who can fathom this?) that God

is creating the world even now as on the first day." 

 

—Meister Eckhart

About beginnings we speculate at best,

knowing that each day is another place

 

to start again and sense that in the toil

of our making so much depends on 

 

dwelling in the present; all this we capture 

in the little word now and its sibling here.

 

Attending to each moment defines what

we know of rapture and the ways of art

 

and love, reminding us that we are part 

of a pattern too simple to ever fully know,

 

renewed again and again in each moment

of every day, our lives like pages in an 

 

unfinished book where alpha bears 

omega’s draw in each line and word.

 

And though we often feel ourselves 

thrown into an absurd tumble of

 

things, each part is somehow caught 

in what will ultimately converge, at 

 

the last, all this carried on with us 

in the flow of an unceasing yes.

Jonathan Chan

Contributor Biography

Jonathan Chan is a writer, editor, and graduate student at Yale University. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore and educated in England. He is interested in questions of faith, identity, and creative expression. He has recently been moved by the writing of Seamus Heaney, Trevor Noah, and Boey Kim Cheng. More of his writing can be found at jonbcy.wordpress.com

epistle

"Of wisdom, splendid columns of light
waking sweet foreheads,
I know nothing

[…]


Who was weeping? Why?"

—Li-Young Lee

i write a letter. 

 

i write a letter to the faithful scattered over sea and air. 

 

i write a letter to those who swallow the taste of their prayers. 

 

i write a letter to those who know that it is easier to forget. 

 

i write a letter to the stomachs that hold bitter gravel. 

 

i write a letter to the mouths that are bloodied at the corner. 

 

i write a letter.

 

i write a letter to every unknowable thing. 

 

i write a letter to the sensations that can never be named. 

 

i write a letter to the loosest form of faith. 

 

i write a letter to the shuddering dusk of perception.

 

i write a letter to the particles that dance in the light. 

 

i write a letter. 

 

i write a letter to the unhomed, the unhomely. 

 

i write a letter to feet evacuated from natural inscription.

 

i write a letter to the soil whose old ways i can never know. 

 

i write a letter to the stories glazed over by concrete. 

 

i write a letter to lifeless, bulldozed sand. 

 

i write a letter. 

 

i write a letter to those who know God. 

 

i write a letter to those who don’t know God. 

 

i write a letter to the creatures that God knows. 

 

i write a letter to God-knows what creatures. 

 

i write a letter to creation and hope it forgives me.

 

i write a letter. 

 

i write a letter to myself. 

 

i write a letter to my future self.

 

i write a letter to the self i think i knew.

 

i write a letter to the self that only God knows. 

 

i write a letter to the self that strains to know God. 

 

i write a letter. 

 

i write a letter to an invisible enemy. 

 

i write a letter to an invisible friend. 

 

i write a letter to the plans i stubbed like smoke.

 

i write a letter to plans.

 

i write a letter to cosmic humour.

 

i write a letter to cosmic love.

 

i write a letter because cosmic love loves me. 

 

i write a letter. 

firmly wrought

"No one kneads us again out of earth and clay,

no one incants our dust.

No one."

—Paul Celan, "Psalm"

you throw me down as 

a wad of clay, lumpen, strident,

 

the furious melding of stardust

and sediment, ephemeral layers

 

of stratigraphic trust. this residue of

carbon, this pulverised fossil. is each

 

knead an impress of pity? plied 

between forethought and thumb,

 

the making and unmaking of this

dispatch of soil, restless matter, 

 

afterlife of dust. fungible flesh 

in the circulation of cosmic 

 

will. would you shape this object

to be durable, marked by your 

 

imprint: pressure, edges, contours,

form, the shuddering immanence, this

 

stubborn vessel? thrown into the kiln, 

embalmed to be filled, drained to its 

 

dregs, foaming, never spit. 

would you bear this cup in a

 

world without end? i bear up hotter

spirits, my end as my beginning, the

 

foresight of the potter, the 

fluency of clay.

prayer (v)

askesis is like peeling

a grapefruit, thumb wedged

between pith and flesh, threads

sticking to the fingers, the soul,

 

that luminous thing, bruising 

with every touch. that old

discipline, like the burning

off of rust, the cyclical collision 

 

of dust and unknowing, pared

back again: does the sanctified

lie against fragility? even if

the ethereal feels closer than

 

this brittle skin, delinking 

chain by chain. the molecules

shift; just as that stratospheric

brushstroke peels back 

 

a tangerine sky, just as

the trunks withstand

the gale and the shower, 

 

just as the same glow

quivers, nothing new,

in every dusky 

place.

resurrection

at dusk the tremors begin,

too stubborn to yield to that pained

ekphrasis: jagged headpiece, mottled

palms, limp torso, crimson stain.

perfection is unbroken bones; they 

roll the stone from the mind. light

crackles in an empty cavern. no tears 

will surge this descending jerusalem,

only the lungs, the limbs he comes 

to fill, the bough that learns to bend,

the breath, spilled upon the altar, and

the body, roused to dance, over and

over again.

love

what lay outstretched in shades beyond a hill,
the silent trickling, stains upon a tree.
what every whispered prayer could fulfil
that transforms hidden shame to dignity.
to deal in glances and not platitudes,
a tight embrace and fingers intertwined.
to catch the words that tumble raw and lewd,
and tame the rudder should it steer the mind.
for love is in the poems that we give,
the conversations shared in evening rides,
the spoons of broth that nourish dreams to live,
the tender pixels laid in soft asides.
to see the mystery of a cosmic trace
within the beauty of another’s face.

Author's Note:

"resurrection" was first published in Eunoia Review.