canon (the important thing)

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there is a gospel of mary
on a fifth-century papyrus
that is not canon
& an infancy gospel of thomas
where the child Jesus
rolled 12 sparrows from clay & spit.
they flew away, singing.  not everything old
is true, & not everything true
is comfortable.  or relevant.  or gospel,
even if that word is in the title
glyphed in aramaic or greek

we who sing through mouths
lit holy know salvation does not fly
with a tale of 12 sparrows
or a celibate Christ, or a married one;
but the divine breathing, bridging & dying
a way for us to God through flesh
& sacrifice. a scrap of papyrus
does not change the Christ i know
who walked through death.
the cross & the tomb are empty.
thomas the doubter
put his hands inside that body
before he believed.

it is not what is known
but what is risked that saves

without touching
we ante with spirit
& faith goes all-in.
we know the voice
& the stakes

*** if you want to listen to my stammer, you can do so here

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76 thoughts on “canon (the important thing)

  1. Such passion. I note you didn’t like the initial incarnation and pulled it… this is a worthy effort in its place.

    What we consider holy or believe, even if nothing, varies from person to person,and in my limited view of the world, it’s all good.

  2. This is gorgeous, Susan. Simply gorgeous.

    This is where you really have me:

    we who sing through mouths
    lit holy know salvation does not fly
    with a tale of 12 sparrows
    or a celibate Christ, or a married one;
    but the divine breathing, bridging & dying
    a way for us to God through flesh
    & sacrifice. a scrap of papyrus
    does not change the Christ i know
    who walked through death.
    the cross & the tomb are empty.
    thomas the doubter
    put his hands inside that body
    before he believed.

        • Thanks, Jeremy. All of the news got to me, and then I reflected a bit on what it is, exactly, that is important. Is it the historical man or the relationship he makes possible? Of course, I am certain that Christ’s attitude towards women varied greatly from those even of his apostles, as can be seen so clearly in how he treated women in his interactions with them in the “sanctioned” gospels.

  3. This was obviously a difficult and delicate subject but you certainly pulled it off. Absolutely a great poem Susan, and I also appreciated your recitation, which doesn’t stammer at all.

    • Oh, thanks so much, David. I really do not like the way my voice sounds recorded, and this was effort #3 you hear here. My own fault for writing lines tricky to read in the first place–haha–the first two had stammers and then the typical “oh feck it, have to start over” recorded in the middle!

      I think I did the right thing by pulling that first poem last night and reworking it. Much happier with this one. This particular poem has been stewing & brewing for almost a week, and has been blocking other work coming out, so am glad I finally freed it!

  4. Only a great poet and a heart soaked in faith could have written this beautiful piece that blends theology, philosophy, poetry and the challenges of biblical archeology so seamlessly. A great piece, Susan.
    “not everything old
    is true, & not everything true
    is comfortable. or relevant. or gospel”
    is philosophy, theology and biblical archeology all at once!
    I am reblogging and with no apologies! Carry go, joor, Susan! Na you, biko!

    • Wow, Noel–thanking you so very much! This was a difficult piece, and the second attempt, as you know. i am very glad I pulled the first effort–this one I think addresses faith more clearly. Did you listen to my sound experiment? Please forgive the stammers if you do.

  5. Rhonda

    As has been said….very well done. And the gambling inferrences…who knew? and the recitation was great…stammer schmammer…no such a thing! Brava susan and I am happy you found a way to get the voice behind the words. :)

  6. A departure from what I’ve seen before. Glad I caught up with it. 12 sparrows I’ll have to look up, but the last bit really did it for me. You are an awesome talent Susan.

    • Oh, goodness, thanks so much, Celestine…this one was a strong one–you know the ones that stay with you for a long time, simmering away, until they are ready to be born…

  7. Not sure how I missed this one, but glad I finally caught it. Real poetry isn’t something you come across all that often – i mean a depth of understanding, erudition and research to craft something this meaningful. And thanks for the recording, it adds something to hear a poet read her own work. Might have to try it myself!

    • Paul, thank you for your comment. I am humbled by your words–the poem was driven by faith, certainly, and I had to plow through a number of gospels that are not considered canon in researching it–something my eyes and mind–perhaps even spirit?–needed some cleaning from when I was done! It would be great to hear you read, so I hope you explore this.

  8. you know…sometimes i too, like thomas have to put my hands on him to feel him again…and i’m so thankful that he allows us.. great verse with interesting thoughts..have never heard about that 12 sparrow story but kinda like it…smiles

    • Hey, Claudia–glad you liked! You can google the infant gospel of Jesus & read it, but I do not suggest you do–it is very disturbing. There are reasons that stuff never made canon. Good ones ;)

  9. Susan, though I am an atheist, I really appreciate the beauty of your words in this piece. It really is something special. I’ve said it before, but your writing is coming on in leaps and bounds. Well done! :)

  10. it is not what is known but what is risked that saves….nice..i like the truth in that….and you nail as well what faith is, which is something many have tried to do before…

  11. I agree that it is not what is known but what is risked that saves as well. Sometimes we have to take the leap of faith which is definitely a risk!

  12. Just a beautiful poem – I don’t know completely what my beliefs are ! I mean, I do but they are not very dogmatic. But the thing that always amazes me is when people are very technical – faith is faith – it’s not about proof, that’s why it’s faith! And, of course, it’s not about all kinds of things that people try to claim. But it is about this poem. Very lovely. Also like header. k.

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