Poetry

Clifton Holt Jolley


Temple: A Three-Part Meditation

I. The Dream of David: King

“I dwell between ceilinged cedar,
But the ark of God? Curtained walls
Wherewith to hide the majesty of Shiloh.
I move through Hiram’s masoned halls,
And Jehovah? Since the time of exodus,
In a tent and tabernacle
Wherein the winds of wilderness have been caught
And spent to final sacrifice.
Nathan: I would build a Palace to the Lord.”
But although a prophet gave consent,
The will of God spoke down against
A king bekingdomed of his fellow’s blood.
“My son: as for me,
I should have built a house
Unto my God,
Had not He stayed my hand
And of myself a house raised up.
But thy name is peace, and, symbol
Of that Peace to come,
He shall be thy father—
Thou shalt be His son—
Until His throne and thine
Be kingdom unto Israel forever.
Solomon: He shall give thee tranquility
And, of the stone which I have hewn,
Thou shalt return to Him
A Temple: the resting place of God.”

II. Mortality: An Instruction

You must understand, child
It is no more than a breath;
A final shudder of the hem,
At which amen the vestment falls
As linen life flows, free,
Into the bolt of which it was cut;
Death: the dropping of a hem
To refashion that which life cannot use up.
And at the end? We shall be delivered
Into one another’s arms: family,
And all of us children of our God.

III. The Dream of David: Realized

My Lord: the upward searchings
Of this holy place-the vaulted rooms.
The outward space of years
That reach from Adam, and before,
Into the foremost possibility of our future years
And yearlessness beyond:
My Lord: I recognize thee here,
Where David knew that thou shouldst be,
And sense thy name sequestered
In each corner—at each door—
As thy presence openly invades my cautious soul.
Mayst thou then know
That, where cedar, cypress, oak
Were insufficient ark to thee,
Yet shalt thou find rest with we
Who here have sought to understand thy name
Into a final comprehension of thy face.
My Lord: this place
Is home to thee—the working place of God.

Poem for Two Voices

(first voice)

(second voice)

Three crosses on a hill;

 
 

turgid air and still, spear-pointed sun shone on,

“Father, forgive them”

 
 

bloodied fingers plaiting thorns.

His brow sweat tears, blood for blood; contorted shoulders, suffering for mankind, agony of all our hells, abyss beyond our knowing, He donned our transgression like a cloak;

 
 

three sixes won his robe. Dice-tossing men won, lost, and swore beneath his feet.

“My God, my God. …” His father wept, knowing, for our sakes, he must ignore.

 
 

A tremor stopped their play.

 

(both voices)

Rending tremors, heaven echoing across the world, rock falling upon rock, cold sea seething boiling-pot, mountains to valleys, towns to ash, sea cascading, desert drowning, earth foundering,

 

and peace.

Three crosses on a hill

 
 

and shadows lengthening to fill a life a world, a universe, a heart.

“… finished!” Or about to start.