Having Decided To Stay

The official website of Bryana Joy Johnson

Category: Poetry

We Should Talk More About The Country

Nasmith
We walk roads that seem endless but we know they’ll be tapering off like a candle with a thread all out of wax. And if you’re on a trail of tears, the finish line might seem like a release. But if this little jaunt has been a party, the fact that it gives way to long strings of funerals sometimes makes everything seem like a pretty expensive waste. I wish we would talk more about the country we’re coming home to – in friend groups speculating about the future and in worship and at work and with the scores of somebodies on the street.

I tried to express this some months ago in a little poem. This week, that poem won a quite special prize over Utmost Christian Writers, and so I thought I would share it with all of you.

Have a glad week, all you born-abroad ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven!

WE SHOULD TALK MORE ABOUT THE COUNTRY

I.
The summer had besieged us like armies, like slow wildfire, like cruelty
and when the high sea broke open and bled white water it was high time.
We did not see it like that: with eyes greedy for justice and gaping.
We were growing older, expected less and less, and celebrated everything:
the crinkled white leaves in the wet hearts of beans, bellicose mosquitoes,
gnats like stardust in the fire-wind, charred asparagus needles,
thin tea, and the yellow teeth under the tongues of purple snapdragons.
We were old enough to be thoroughly happy about the pond hosting
black-winged whistler ducks with beaks like bursts of flame, the garden
making a home for rugged white parsnips and the green pebbles of peas;
to relish donuts like spun sugar, trees shedding water like tears,
nightbirds in the moonful sky, and the steady drip of rain through our dreams.

II.
After a time, even drought-break and jubilation begin to taste of sadness.
When we stand in the pool of our contentment, wearing each other’s presence
like a coat of many smiles, we will never stand here again, never with the
water hurtling off of the shingles, and the ants chewing our naked toes,
never with the baby tangling his pink fingers in our hair and our mouths
glad with songs, and our hearts full like hosed cells of celery.

III.
We should talk more of the country we are coming home to, and less
of the land we are living in like unhomed swallows on the waves of the sky,
like beached sailboats straining at the bar, their wings clapping the salty air.
Talk of the houses that are waiting behind yellow curtains to be filled
with laughing and the lilting piano, and puddled crushed citrus spiking the rooms.
Swaying in our rocking-chairs and wrapped in our respective twilights,
we should not speak of our histories as though we stood before the banquet
of delights and were too easy on our dinnerware. We should not speak
of what has been and will never be again. We should talk about what has
never been, though we have been waiting for it all our lives. Talk of the gold
city that shall break on our sight like rain on brittle grass, when we shall go
up from the house of slavery and swing over the threshold of the promised land.

Sometimes

DSCF0034

While I’m adjusting to a new schedule and a new city, and all out of time, here are some words by someone else, that underscore the music in the world, that left me a little breathless here. May it happen for you.

SOMETIMES
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscatel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

[Sheenagh Pugh]

EDMUND VOTES YES [after Prince Caspian]

Edmund-Aslan
She said it in three words, “Look, look, look!
The mane and the golden fur!
Over the gorge on the mountainside—”
The others were not so sure.

We were so footsore and so worn,
chasing our muddled maps.
And maybe she had been right, but maybe
she had been wrong, perhaps.

Twice on the nays I have staked my claim;
the stories were much too rich.
But the wardrobe opened upon the wood
and the queen was a wicked witch.

So if all of my days have narrowed to this,
a way that I cannot guess,
and you see the lion upon the road,
“Yes, little sister, yes!”

(Bryana Johnson)

In Confidence

GileadInConfidence
It’s that time again. Summer is closing off and all my favorite things are up around the bend. Like rain and days under the white veils of clouds. Like early sunsets and the ground damp and sloshy and smoke on the frosty air and little blinking lights and choral music.

There is one thing that gives radiance to everything,” wrote Chesterton. “It is the idea of something around the corner.” Well, I have been thinking: we who are coming home to the home we have never been to before, what a lot we have got ahead of us to be happy about.

Come away, come away. We’re going up around the bend.

Yesterday I had three poems published in the Fall 2013 Issue of Grey Sparrow Journal. One of them is about waiting, and the manner of our waiting. I thought I’d share it here with all of you. If you’d like, you can click on through to the others as well. I’d love that.

Grain cars of a Fresno grain train roll into the sun.

IN CONFIDENCE

“What is real about us all is that each of us is waiting.”
(–W.H. Auden, A Christmas Oratorio)

for the clean sun the clean rain
the big wave and the grey-eyed hurricane
for the children to come home
we have put supper on
it will not be long now

for red over the great hills
the big fish with the gold scales and thirsty gills
for the blue river to arrive
out of the high mountains
it will not be long

for the white star, the white horse
and whatever is at the end of course
for the little lacy flowers to open
for the wet butterfly-tongues
not long now

for the trumpets of the trains
the big sky smoky-white with aeroplanes
we will jump high laughing
waving our small hands so fast
not long

for whatever is coming
with big slow footsteps and soft humming
to get here wearing just
whatever it has on hand
will be perfect

we who have been hanging, hanging
on the noises in the darkness
will not hang back we will
run forward with our arms wide
calling welcome welcome

The Times Are Nightfall

Dover Beach
Well, the dark is coming on. It has been for some time. But these days the sinking of the sun seems accelerated, and many who have not been noticing are noticing at last. We are living in the twilight of many good things, and it seems shall soon be plunged into the deep night.

SyriaWoman

We see it in the unfree world, where the crest of rage has come down over the countries and desolation goes racking up the corpse count. Where all fences and fortresses are torn down, and the unspeakable has become the undeniable. In the vile cruelty all sides are performing on each other, we see that the times are nightfall indeed.

SyriaChild
And oh, Dover Beach got some things right, for

we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Syria rebels
We see it in the once-free world, where the liberty to love righteousness is slowly sinking to the status of a thing of the past. Where a great web of lies has entangled all the peoples and a trail of deceits has broken all trusts. Where when a man gets up before a body of legislators and speaks truth, he finds himself standing all by himself.

Marriage

Oh, these are the times that try men’s souls. Their light grows less. And a man may judge as he has ever judged. But what is a man to do?

What is a man to do when all his striving and resistance is like so much dust on the wind, and availeth nothing? What is a man to do when the world must, must change, but won’t? What is a man to do when he can’t change the world?

Congress

Hopkins has a few good words on this, the wintertime of the world:

THE TIMES ARE NIGHTFALL
(by Gerard Manley Hopkins)
The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less;
The times are winter, watch, a world undone:
They waste, they wither worse; they as they run
Or bring more or more blazon man’s distress.
And I not help. Nor word now of success:
All is from wreck, here, there, to rescue one—
Work which to see scarce so much as begun
Makes welcome death, does dear forgetfulness.

Or what is else? There is your world within.
There rid the dragons, root out there the sin.
Your will is law in that small commonweal.

Dragon Aslan

When a man can’t change the world, he should change. For this is the highest adventure of all.

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