“The truth lit from behind”: a poem

The truth lit from behind

We so quickly claim that our time

this day, this moment, is full

of more struggle than others,

those who are now ghosts and memory,

that somehow the strain has grown–

Never before, they say–

No one has ever–


The bow slides sharply across the string,

and the note soars past what our ears can hear,

but we feel it,

skin pulled tight against a bone

in this time that is our own.

My grandfather was shot five times

in the war, left for dead on the 

cold Italian dirt while others sang carols

in candle-lit churches,

a young widow grieving at home until

the news came days later–

what of those tears she had shed?

When he was an old man,

my wife once saw an x-ray of his chest,

the shape of his heart there on the wall,

the truth lit from behind

with the thin lines of metal dust

streaking across his torso,

five paths to follow

from youth to adulthood with eyes

open to life, stretched so wide.

Threads strain to hold

the patterns we crave to sew together.

Jesus said something about

new wine in old wineskins,

and I need to read that again.

We don’t see life as it is,

we see life as we are.

The wise have always known this

to be true, with our call to cleanse

the lens of our own sight,

to gently polish the glass

on which we press our faces,

looking, always searching.

My eye rests on the flower made of flame

that stands tall among the stones

as I take my next step,

as will those who follow.


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