I recently came across my one try at epic poetry, a poem I had written in 1992. Titled Kerygma Mysterion, it attempts a retelling of the Christian biblical narrative. Twenty-six years ago I had not yet discovered Religious Studies, and I still carried a refreshingly naïve view of religion. Here is an excerpt from the poem:
Snow mixed the driving sleet into a whiter cold of wet.
Winter weights a heavy gray of frozen worry for a young girl
come into the city,
Sunk into the worn-out springs of an old Ford truck driven
By the man she would marry soon.
But now it’s late,
The stores closed for most of the winter night,
and the money nearly gone.
He had hoped, she knew, that they would camp,
Maybe in a park, maybe in a low corner of a dark cemetery.
But rain, then sleet, now snow meant another night
Cramped into the drafty cab with old blankets still damp
from the first rain three nights ago
A thousand miles from here.
She wanted to be at home, to be in a warmer circle
of family she had known all of her seventeen years.
But dreams had frightened her into running hard until
she had come to her cousin’s place,
to the foothills across to the other side of the ridge,
the other side of hollows and streambeds she had followed
all the days that life had blessed her with.
She stayed there with her cousin, the two of them
both ripe with child,
until the young man in his old Ford came to claim her love,
Came bouncing up the gravel road,
and off they went in search of work, in search of a new life,
to be counted among the millions
in the cold winter of the city.
A siren flashes by.
Snowflakes come down big as quarters,
settling into low places, swirling around a sharp corner
and drifting up over the curb.
Vents in the floorboards wheeze out a warm breath of air,
But the girl shivers
and wraps another blanket
over her legs.
Wind begins to blow steadily from the west.
The pickup turns away from the city lights
Heading down an old road through dark trees.
She stares at the black trunks marching by between
The flakes falling from a heavy sky turning the world
to a crystal white, a white that seems to dazzle from a face
staring back at her between the black of branches.
She had never known such a white,
But she had seen the face in dreams
that rushed through the doors of her sleep
and rustled in the deepest corners of her being.
A single flake of snow stares at her
from the windshield, frozen in place
Like two thousand years gone by
in a flood of tears,
in a slow roll of laughter seeping in
From the smoky light of a corner bar
Where whores sidle up to cowboys,
Not for money, but for the musky warmth
of two bodies standing side by side,
Bridging a gulf too wide for love.
The whistle of wind rushes in through the rusted door,
her shoulders crusted with a glaze
They slept that night in a barn hidden at the end
of a narrow lane.
They laid the blankets down in a corner of old straw
[Post 103 of 260 in my year-long challenge.] ♨