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    painting of Dutch Ships in a Gale

    Two Poems

    By David Holper

    June 7, 2016
    • Carla Durbach

      Are we not all Jonahs? Running from God in some way, till we are swallowed up and only then surrender.

    • S.M. Kozubek

      What a wonderful contrast Aubade makes with Jonah's Lament: Aubade's delight in the delicate shadows of God's world.

    • Mike Talbert

      What a delightful targum on Jonah, capturing both the humor and the horror of the story. A lot of ministers would be well served to read it.

    • Shannon Johansen

      Very good poem, I recognise several parts in myself, the Jonah part. We allneed to be reminded of the beauty part, what inspires us to brush off the dust after falling into it.

    Jonah’s Lament

    If you ask me about the whale, believe me, I’ll run.
    Am I a broken record that I should have to go on
    re-telling that cursed tale until my tongue trips out?
    What a great moral, right? Some rancid tale
    of a fool thinking he can flee from God
    until a storm nearly swamped the ship—and I got tossed
    like a sack of rotten potatoes. Yes,
    let’s skip all that. After all,
    what business of mine was it if
    Yahweh wanted to save the souls
    of the Ninevites? Cursed
    three days in the sour gut
    of the whale, what choice remained?
    I dragged my sorry carcass to Nineveh,
    Delivered the holy telegram, watched
    in horror as the whole lot
    of them fell on their eager knees,
    begged God’s forgiveness.
    It was enough to make you sick.
    I fled to high up on the hill overlooking
    that cesspool. I threw myself down in the burning
    sun, fuming, but God wasn’t done—is He ever?
    He grew a fig tree to shade my angry bones, then
    withered that, too. How many tortures
    can He devise, I wonder, until
    I, too, get down in the dust
    and grovel, recognizing my hope
    is failing, and there’s nowhere
    left to run?

    painting of Dutch Ships on stormy sea

    Jan Porcellis, Dutch Ships in a Gale


    Let us now praise all that we forget to see: the invisible
    beads of dew on a stem of rye grass, the path the grasshopper weaves

    through the fallen sycamore leaves, a tracked laced with the first hard frost;
    or the frozen filament of a spider’s web catching the umber sun

    light that whispers through the wood this morning.
    Yes, this morning let us embrace how the chill seems to listen

    to the voices of the quail caressing the charged
    emptiness in the air, hear the weight of silence

    as the pond ice thickens, as all that sleeps lays it head
    against the dark weight of winter – and then the distant call

    of Canada geese beating the air overhead. Let us lift our eyes
    to follow the blue eye of God – and how in looking down to where

    we stand, he offers us everything that is small,
    unnoticed, delicate, perfect. Imagine

    that he does this because he knows
    that the beauty of all he has made is

    what we least will notice
    but need so desperately. And noticing

    our noticing,
    is our good pleasure, too.

    Contributed By

    David Holper is Professor of English at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California. His poem “Cana de Azucar” won the Jodi Stutz prize from Toyon, and his work appears in publications such as Pilgrimage, First Things, Grand Street, and The Gihon River Review.

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