Thursday, March 02, 2006

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #26 -- Lent 2006

Well, I suppose this had to happen some time... summon up all your courage, all ye faithful TST readers!

This week I wanted to post a poem that had a Lenten theme, seeing as today happens to be the day after Ash Wednesday, the second day of Lent 2006... as we enter into this traditional period of penitence, sacrifice, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the holiest season of the Church year, I thought it might be useful/inspirational to offer some words of wisdom from an experienced poet that could help to focus our minds and hearts on what Jesus endured on our behalf...

...unfortunately, no such poets were available, so I had to call on an amateur for help... had to call upon the scrub team... the understudy of the understudy of the understudy...

Seriously, I feel pretty sheepish doing this, but seeing as I did want my theme to be Lent, and not finding a poem that was a perfect fit in my own collection/searching around... and realizing that I had written a poem myself with Lent as its theme/subject... well, what the heck. Why try to explain or justify myself any longer? Here is my own brief meditation on Lent for this week's poem. I don't promise brilliance here, only sincerity, and a mind/heart that yearns (in my better moments) for a deeper understanding of the Church's great mysteries. In this particular poem, I was going for a chant-type rhythm (obviously, although I'm not sure I achieved that), and also was expressing my fascination over the fact that we get our modern word "quarantine" from the Latin for "forty"... I thought it was interesting how when we quarantine someone, we separate them from all others... as Jesus once "separated" Himself from everyone to do spiritual battle with Satan... I thought there were some interesting connections to explore there, and this was my attempt to do so. The poem was scribbled back in 2001.

I hope readers will forgive the outrageous presumption of including a poem of mine within this series of masters... obviously my intention is not to identify myself with such illustrious company!?! My only goal here is to post something that brings to mind the holy season we are entering into, and helps us think about what we might want to sacrifice for ourselves to "prepare the way of the Lord" in our own hearts.


Quarantine: A Lenten Chant

quar an tine (n.): from the Latin "quaranta" = forty; 1. A period of forty days... 4. A state of enforced isolation.

Forty days of desert wind
and biting sand to scrape your skin.

Forty days to rub you raw
with loneliness and hunger’s gnaw.

Forty days devoid of rain
to quench your thirst and ease your pain.

Forty days of searing sun –
a test for greater trials to come.

Forty days for you to doubt
that Spirit which had led you out.

Forty days of suffering’s scourge
and hesitations, harshly purged.

Forty days to try your soul
while Satan vied for your control.

Forty days so long endured
to make good on your father’s Word.


Mutt Ploughman said...


Mutt Ploughman said...

It's GREAT to see that Duke posted one of his own poems on here. I certainly can't knock on this practice myself, since i have posted a few book reviews and a story on here before. If people can stand my stuff, they certainly can take Duke's strong, heartfelt, under-sold (by him) poems.

This one in particular strikes just the right note for Lent and draws readers' attention to what this time of year is really all about. I don't see how Duke can feel 'sheepish' about this poem, for the concluding lines

Forty days so long endured
to make good on your father’s Word.

seem to me to capture quite succinctly what the season of Lent is all about, in a small space. I've seen FAR, FAR worse from 'published' poets than this is.......i can understand reticence about one's work, because it is hard to see it objectively and even harder to see much merit in what one has produced. But Duke's voice in poems blasts like a Bose sound system with sincerity - which he correctly 'promises' his readers - and honesty, and truth as well as he understands it. If you think about it, no one who reads poems is really asking for greatness, they are just looking to share in the experience of the poet, and it's the poet's job to bring them into themselves, to share their insights. Duke's done this here.

This is a fine Lenten poem, people who read it should share it with friends who feel that Lent is worth noting and worth bearing through to Easter. Great gift from Duke for Thread weavers.

Duke Altum said...

I appreciate your careful reading of the poem and your feedback, Mutt... as well as your perspective on why one might be hesistant to share one's own work. Of course I would never have shared it at all if I thought it was a TOTAL disaster, and the fact that I wrote it in 2001 and yet still keep it around indicates that I think there is at least something to offer in it. Although I am not sure I could say exactly what that is... certainly I don't say anything NEW here about Jesus, Lent, etc... I guess my hope is that it just causes whoever reads it to pause, even for a second, and think about Jesus' experience in the desert and the connection between that and what Christians attempt to do during the Lenten season.

Interestingly enough, though hardly surprising, Pope Benedict XVI, in his remarks on Ash Wednesday not three days ago, made some connections between the temptation in the desert and Lent as well... check it out:

"The 40 days of Lent... possess an undeniable evocative power. Indeed, Lent aims to recall some of the events that marked the life and history of ancient Israel, such as the 40 days of the flood that led to God's covenant with Noah, and the 40 days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, which was followed by the gift of the tablets of the Law... Above all, the Lenten period invites us to relive with Jesus the 40 days He spent in the desert, praying and fasting before beginning His public mission. Today, we too begin a journey of reflection and prayer with all the Christians of the world."

-General audience of Pope Benedict XVI on Ash Wednesday, 3/1/06