Saturday, July 10, 2010

At Quaker meeting: Waiting for silence

A poem by William Jolliff

Outside waits a day with four mountains:
Jefferson, Adams, St. Helens and Hood
are stretching their shoulders to the sky
like schoolboys hoping to be chosen first.

The light that sways through the window
of the meetinghouse falls like a warm kiss,
then bends to bless the pews and timbers.
I knew the man who crafted that altar—

I read his books. He cut the black walnut
on his farm and stacked the rough-sawn
boards to wait for the right purpose—this—
then mourned his sin in steel wool and tung oil.

And the young man speaking doesn’t have
Ezekiel’s hair only; he has a prophet’s tongue,
too, and a pure heart, nearly as I can tell.
So I’ve more to be forgiven as I turn

each muscle of hope toward what is still
to come, when the brilliance of good words
slows into nothing, and we settle at last
to the silence that calls us back, even from music

that draws us to the center, the sacred pit
of God’s belly, even on a four-mountain day.

(Bill Jolliff is a professor of literature and writing at George Fox University. He attends the North Valley Friends unprogrammed meeting for worship, where Hal and I also attend. This poem is from his book, Searching for a White Crow, 2009, Pudding House Publications——and is posted here with the author’s permission.)

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