Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Lauds, After the Storm:

(On St. John the Baptist's Day)


We awoke in the up-sprung morning-
Outside air of after-rain filled our heads
Flooded under the oaks and pines
Slow paced nodding breathing in
The smell: memory condensed
Of mornings beyond count past
Under new rain-washed skies
Soil singing in its fresh-found embrace-
And all the things only the smelling of can contain
(How much deeper than words some things work
Unlocked inside of us unspoiled yet)
Rain-loosened lauds this, seeping from the soil
Gathering to God and speaking clear, distinct
Memory of Him, too, soft sudden immediacy.


So then the tractor rattled and hummed, it also
Woken again, noticing nothing new,
We lurched slow and settled
Into the broken rows of trees
Teeth set on edge but
Lines softened scattered out
In the blurring spilling-out first light.
Over the sand-hills and brimming floodplain
Tallahala Creek over beyond the tree-cloaked brim
(This too a memory though
The signifiers are long fled from their sign)
Comes the horizon-stretched broad flaming orb
Sweeping the sky of last night’s memory
The sudden burst, the flare:
Arrival in blaze of glory, terrible and strong,
Beautiful, angel choir surrounding
Summoning, the dawn.


Rain-drops clinging, filtering the grass and trees-
The universe condensed in each luminescent globe-
Water, type of heaven, harbinger of life-
And of death-
(Both in each speaking to the other)
The fruit waits heavy with rejoicing for
The storm has seen the breaking of the drought
The silent stony prayers of the land
At last returned and now echoed back again

We look down the rows and shake our heads-
For there is always loss in gain
Joy is more rapt, perhaps, for the sorrow
In which it embowers itself
The seed within bitter flesh and pulp.
The rains come their bright draughted wine:
Sometimes the cup is downfall, and joy.
Toppled, brought low
Are ten, fifteen trees- we count, the tractor grumbles on:
Cutting our losses we continue
In the work of the day, the work of our hands
Confluence of times and seasons
And we recall that day last fall
The bitter too-hot autumn
That brought these trees down
Sank low into their hearts, cut to the roots:
The roots weakened, the tree
Will not long stand.

And I wonder: are my roots well-set
Unrattled by storm and displacement?
Is there some strong cup yet for me to drink
Sorrow and joy mingled, equal measure?


But no matter, this. We are not dismayed
For the lauds still rise in the midst of
What falls apart-
There is still room for rising in the collapse.

Away in the clean-washed distance
Above the fig-tree fronted barn
The last clouds are smoldering off
Final tracery of the fire and ice
That from them was lately sprung
(The fire we did not feel, and as for the ice:
It was, despite our fears, of little consequence.
We were blessed.)
Streams off, smoke from the burning-down
Underground coal-mine fires in the skies
Their ovens banked and cooling
Overhead the egrets sharp-reliefed
Flung, snow-pure arrows from the rising sun
Burnish across the sky
Moving as in a waking dream
I think they sleep upon the outcast sun-beams
To regather on the waking world when their roost
Rises to roof again the fields and floods.


We fill the gun-metaled buckets
As the heat slowly wraps around us
Briefly fled, brooding now out from the sun.
All the world rises awake up alive (even with its losses)
And I think:
What is it to be, alive? To love?
How can we- riders on rattling tractors
And lonely severing roads and highways-
Be taken with the joy-laden lauds floating
Over the morning ground
The bright paling-piece praise rising
To the not-so-distant throne
Of God, His remembrance brimming in leaf and stock:
But I do not pretend to know
The route to cull out the words I need
Some songs are sung
Without the roil and heave of tongue-formed word
And on after-rain hymn-heavy dawns
The knowing of the thing seeps into you
As the drought breaks water flooding in.
It is then that you know, you love
And rejoice in the midst of shattered tree
Withal within you the remembering:
Imminent Return, and all-things Resurrection, Remaking.


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