October 15, 2015 / Creative Writing
The poet Donald Paris writes about his father.
April 2, 2006
And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.
When you are thunder to us,
when you are smoke and fire,
we sift through the air, ashen.
Out of the smoke, coals drop;
we pick them up, burn each other,
in disgust disgorge a lie.
Look at us now, seared and smoking,
moaning amid the stinking dead.
You are more cruel
to let me live—I, your mouth,
your scribe, duster and sweeper,
tender of simmering pots.
Clank of metal, swing of robe,
gold plates and tapestries,
ceilings and vessels to fashion,
objects to grasp and contend over—
without them we could not last,
not one day.
While you gather a prophet
to yourself like a newborn,
needing nothing save milk
delicate as light, the severe
radiance of sapphire rooms,
what of those wailing at your feet,
teeth in our mouths, desert
in our eyes, afraid?
For these bawling ones
you need me;
plague that I am,
you need me.
Drop words on us, words
like a rain of stones.
We will bend and gather them,
pile them one upon another.
Be gentle with us in cloth and trappings,
give us a circle of steps for our feet,
something dry in our throats to sing,
and one day we will thank you.
Debra Rienstra is an associate professor of English at Calvin College. She has written two books, Great With Child: On Becoming a Mother, a personal meditation on motherhood, and So Much More: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality, which is a gentle introduction to the Christian faith. Rienstra writes literary non-fiction, poetry, and literary criticism, and teaches early British literature and creative writing.