Click here to see all of the poems in The 55 Project.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Poem 014


Beneath the skull’s overcast dome, a Farmer plows my brainfield
----with crooked, meandering, furrows, dusty trenches thirsting
like finches freshly hatched, featherless, whose radish-resembling heads
----instinctively anticipate what host a mother’s beak may bring,
breadcrumbs, rose-buds, myrtle-sprigs, some writhing, shriveling, worm,
----want and provision erecting young necks from the nest,
its wattle fence their first exposure to faith, a forum for voicing
----psalms and complaints to the descending parent.

Like these chicks, my soil accepts whatever is planted, uncomprehended,
----blossoming sprouts up toward the sun while imaginative rains
baptize root-balls to tunnel down deep, universally feeding
----the sapling green limbs and heart-piercing thorns of figs and weeds
entangling this plot. Only the Gardener’s keen shears can cultivate
----this fated harvest- prudence blooming its womb with a promise.

Nathaniel A. Schmidt of Rockford, Michigan is an English Adjunct at Spring Arbor University. His poetry has appeared in such periodicals as Perspectives, and Windhover. "Covenantal" is forged from much of Isaiah 55, particularly verses 3, 8 and 10-13.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Poem 013


How high is higher? How wide, how deep is a thought
springing from the divine mind? The path I have chosen
winds past shady poplar, birch, gnarled oak. It is narrow
and leads occasionally past clearings: bluestem grass,
fields of three leaf aven, thorns and thistles. Half-hidden
in an aspen tree a pileated woodpecker hammers its heart out.
Chickadees and squirrels vie for seeds hikers have scattered.
A west wind stirs the air, rustles the aspen leaves. Everything
is restless, the prairie sky extravagantly blue, the forest
riddled with light, birds aflutter. The whole world stirs.
I cannot measure beauty. Nor can I count the hordes of refugees
at border crossings, nothing to eat, no water, nowhere to lay their heads,
children kidnapped, abused, abandoned, cities flattened, riots
at football games, another brutal murder in my neighbourhood.
What is God thinking? The Word, spelled out in poetry, breathed
rhythmically into the prophet’s ear? High above a vulture hovers.
The wind picks up, trees clap their branches, hills begin to hum.
If there were mountains on the prairie would they shout for joy?

Sarah Klassen of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is the author of seven poetry collections. Her most recent poetry book is Monstrance (2012), and her newest fiction book is the novel The Wittenbergs (2013), both from Turnstone Press. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. "Baffled" proceeds from Isaiah 55:9.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Poem 012


1. Lip Service

The word went forth
with a holy wind-----blew in
but broke off-----suddenly—
the very mouth-----charged to proclaim
clammed shut-----fallen
asleep-----dead to the world
ears-----deaf to the singing—
hard-hearted-----paying only
lip service-----to the thirsty
turned back from the waters.

they were made
to bed down-----in briers and thorns
suffer for a season
at the hands of the wicked.

2. Praise

In time-----another came
God-sent-----to witness
Truth-teller-----pronouncing sentence
while the Word teemed-----raining into
silences-----re-sounding aloud
with a gasping-----mouth
the earth cracked-----open
and the land began
to breathe-----again.

The people rejoiced
ate and drank and-----came
to know God
with a full heart
they went forth-----praising.

Margo Swiss of Toronto, Ontario teaches Humanities and English at York University. She is the author of Crossword: A Woman's Narrative, and her forthcoming collection The Hatching of the Heart (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books). The source of "Covenant" is Isaiah 55.10-11.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Poem 011

No Heaven

-----------------------------Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,

Hard rain, flash floods,
green sky, ball-sized hail,
earthquake, tsunami,
bodies, bodies—

-----------------------------While we all sup sorrow with the poor;

capitalism, Marxism—
does it really matter which
to the mom who gives up her baby
to adoption, or abortion,

-----------------------------There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears;

because she can’t afford
a cup of milk, or any good book,
and can’t wait any longer for Isaiah’s
invitation to arrive?

-----------------------------Oh hard times, come again no more.

She figures it got lost in the mail,
or was never meant for her anyway.

-----------------------------There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,

And the woman wrapped
in her pimp’s unending
covenant, one she didn’t ask for
when snatched, years ago,

-----------------------------With a worn heart whose better days are o'er.

from her Haitian village
amid her daily chore,
pail filled with water,
left behind, spilling out.

-----------------------------Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,

Displayed beneath Amsterdam’s red lights,
in a shop window,
she stands with other women plucked
from poverty’s tangled vines.

-----------------------------Oh, hard times, come again no more.

Or the man, memory of his priest’s private
part impeding his reach for the bread of life

-----------------------------While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,

he craves, boy within
searching, always, for salvation.
And another boy, this one
hammering the quarry in India,

-----------------------------There are frail forms fainting at the door;

feeling as if the rocks were embedded
in his back, his arms and legs electric
with agony, his labor never satisfying
his owner, his father, himself.

-----------------------------Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say

O, the kidnapped girls in Nigeria—
if we can’t hear them dropping
to the ground, one by one,
like pines in a Maine forest,

-----------------------------Oh, hard times, come again no more.

does that mean they no longer exist,
or their fate is not tragic or true?

-----------------------------'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,

Can you hear ethnic cleansing’s anthem groaning?
If we scrub people from the Earth like mildew
do the promises disappear, too?
What deliverance for the Sudanese?

-----------------------------Hard Times, hard times, come again no more.

Is there no heaven for them?
No heaven for we who devour
our processed cheese, our genetically
modified organisms, our empty, homegrown

-----------------------------Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;

headlines, distracting ourselves to the point
of everyone’s death?
Tell me, Isaiah, tell me now,
how do any of us eat what is good,

-----------------------------Oh, hard times, come again no more.

what will last? Teach us how to hear God
over all the noise—the chisel, the sword,

-----------------------------’Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,

even the tornado’s plow
in small Cedarville, Ohio
through the century-old farmhouse,
the barns, the silos.

-----------------------------’Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore

Show us how the cries of the farmer
and his family, rising
with their roof as their once-
dependable walls fall,

-----------------------------’Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave

trapping them in the basement,
beneath the rubble of several generations,
are heard as firefighters free them,
and volunteers then work the fields

-----------------------------Oh, hard times come again no more.

to salvage what they can—
hearing aids, wedding band, Bible.

Julie L. Moore of Cedarville, Ohio is author of Particular Scandals (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books). She is associate Professor of English and the Writing Center Director at Cedarville University. Visit Kingdom Poets to find out more. "No Heaven" arises from Isaiah 55:1-3, and features song lyrics from Stephen Foster.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Poem 010


My ways are higher than your ways.
Don’t spend your money on false bread;
come drink and banquet—no one pays.

Offer unheard of all your days
till now unspoken and unread.
My ways are higher than your ways.

Invited are the castoffs, strays
where poor like you would go in dread
come drink and banquet. No one pays.

Delighted, sated all your days
hunger no more, just be well-fed.
My ways are higher than your ways.

My sun shines down in pardoning rays
while you expected wrath instead.
Come, drink and banquet. No one pays.

To you who seek Me and obey
surprising mercy is ahead.
My ways are higher than your ways.
Come drink and banquet—no one pays.

Violet Nesdoly of Langley, British Columbia is the author of the 2012 novel Destiny's Child. She is a freelance writer and poet. Visit her website to find out more. The villanelle "Invitation" is a reflection on Isaiah 55:1.