On Constable’s “Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds” (Challenge #20)
by Pamella Bowen
O, dreamy scene of spire kissed by sun
And framed by ancient trees in foreground green
With water meadows, cows and shining brook,
Why do my heartstrings leap at sight of you?
When Constable put brush to canvas then
To paint your quintessential English view
He couldn’t know two centuries would pass
And still you’d find a lover here in me.
An Anglophile was I at seventeen
When first I saw your subject for myself,
Walking from the train to take a tour
Of nave and transepts, choir, cloisters, spire.
Is it your Englishness that so appeals
Or mem’ry of that far-off cherished joy—
My first time seeing such a holy sight,
In love with England’s green and pleasant land?
Or maybe it’s the fact that on those shores
My heart first felt the stirring touch of God,
When tears welled up in me and hotly fell,
Responding to an English preacher’s words.
I praise the Lord who blessed the artist’s hand
To capture with a brush the sacred scene
And masons’ hands six hundred years before
That fit the sandstone blocks with skill and grace.
What gift is Art the Holy spirit sends
To keep the Good News moving through the years,
From stone to paint to poem in my hand,
The Word has lived and lives and will live still.
Hello, my baby.
Whatcha doin’ on my doormat?
Watching me through the sliding door?
Isn’t it a lovely day?
Isn’t it nice being a lizard?
[he cocks his lizard head]
I bet it is.
I love you, little guy.
Yes, I do.
[he steps closer on lizardy feet]
You are so cute.
Thanks for coming to see me.
[a bit closer]
Is it fun being a lizard?
[off he scurries]
Bye, little lizard.
Have a nice lizard day.
Saint Francis wasn’t magic.
He was holy.
Like all of us.
The Creation understood him,
Does a snake luxuriate in a desert sunset?
Does a lizard pen paeans to sandy solitude?
No time for that foolishness—
It’s fight or flight.
Does a human luxuriate in a penthouse view?
Does homo sapiens send e-mails extolling a peaceful encounter?
No time for that foolishness—
It’s kill or be killed,
Strike while the iron is hot,
The early bird gets the worm,
And nice guys finish last.
Like lizard brains, ours work best on
Beauty, peace, and love?
They’re nice and all,
But nothing to solve.
Nothing in which to sink your teeth,
So to speak.
That’s how we humans are—
From reptiles not so far.
The barbecue offerings
The unleavened bread
The wine jugs in Cana
The food for the thousands
The last supper
The post-resurrection fishes.
God, I think you’re all about food,
About eating together here,
About hospitality now,
In the delectable real world.
The Learned Preacher says you mean
Feeding the Soul
Bread of Heaven—
It’s all metaphorical.
Maybe he’s right.
But I’m still hungry.
The prompt was: Where do you see stained glass?
Sainte-Chapelle shines in Paris.
Saint Peter’s awes in Rome.
High-class gallery, NYC,
Stained glass makes its home.
Transom in a tenement,
Pizza palace lampshade,
Jesus in a Baptist church,
Stained glass takes its space.
Came and colors come together,
Worked by hands on wooden tables.
Lead and glass, so lowly, common,
Humble, handled, hung aloft
Like the Christ the glass portrays—
Icon of the transformed way.
Written to the prompt: What was the last thing you killed?
I’m no killer, I swear.
I’d never take a life,
Send someone otherwhere
At point of gun or knife.
I’d never kill a dog,
Unless he was very sick
And blind and old and crippled
And needed put to sleep.
I’d never kill a bird,
Unless of course it dashed
Itself against my windshield
On the freeway going fast.
I’d never kill a fish
Unless I accidentally sprayed
Insecticide around the room
Where the aquarium stays.
I guess I am a killer.
What effort it would take
To keep myself from killing!
Not to step on insects,
Not to disinfect.
To let the termites munch away,
Coyotes eat my pets.
To see a snake and stop the car.
No, not to kill is just too hard.
Another in the Deadly Sin series, using a random title from FAWM.
I thought I was over the envy.
We hadn’t met for years.
I’d gone my way, she’d gone hers.
We both were successful and happy.
She picked the restaurant.
A bit steep for me, but I had my plastic.
Designer suit and perfect lipstick—
She hugged me short and laughed.
Under the make-up and electric tan
She was just as old as me.
I noted this fact briefly,
My eyes on the rock on her hand.
I saw her scan me up and down
Assessing, judging shoes and dress.
She said she had lost my address,
Was I still living here in town?
“Parochial, dowdy, aging frump”
Echoed in my head,
Even though she really said,
“I’m so thrilled that you could come.”
What we said and what we ate
I really can’t recall.
The voice of Envy drowned it all,
And hate stared from my plate.
“Good-bye,” “So nice,” “Let’s keep in touch.”
Like hell we will, I thought.
This old acquaintance’ll be forgot,
As old acquaintance must.
Envy smiled and dusted off his hands.
Again he’d done the dirty work
For the Enemy of Man.
The title is a randomly-generated FAWM title, and I found the words and phrases in some of the reflections in Forward Day by Day.
Who are You?
Skin color, level of education.
Big deal guilt.
Distracted by attractions, addictions.
Fully awake, nothing is wasted.
Piece of Wisdom:
A Prayer for Freedom.
God’s way: good fruits.
Snips and snatches,
Of world-changing love, mercy.
Sisters and brothers.
The assignment was to write about a flower. Of course, I had to make it didactic. This time I used limerick form throughout.
A woman who lived in her head
Assumed that the desert was dead
Till she sat on a rock
And had quite a shock
To see what God’s desert had bred.
She sat very still half an hour,
And her heart changed the barren to bower.
Right there at her feet,
So neat and so meek,
Grew a tiny, magnificent flower.
As she gazed, she could suddenly see
How perfect, how happy, how free
The sweet blossom was,
And she asked herself, “Does
God shower such blessing on me?”
She heard in the breeze Someone say,
“If you seize, like this flower, the day
You’ll feel in the moment
An end to your torment,
A peace your mind cannot betray.”
So the woman now lives and loves better,
Thanking the God who makes deserts.
Like a flower or star,
If we be who we are,
We live with God’s blessing forever.