Advent Devotions: Marginal hope

Advent 2015. Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

By Lucas Walker

Philippians 1:3-11        

I was born to a book-fearing house
          and taught all kinds of respect for
Books were to be seen and heard
          nobody needs your commentary, my dear
Set down the text
Look north, reflect–
neither book nor God should have your scribbles all over

Then, I handled books like my life I wanted–
          make no mistakes, no
torn pages, errata of the immature
Follow the printed line, deny
          the marks left by other callous hands

That which perches on my shoulder has died
Her once sleek body bearing marks of dull despair
There is no hope in the east
          no feathered light on my shoulder
Oh, Emily
of course hope can die and her song turn
          to something beyond mourning
I do not remember who I remember
         when I pray

It took me years to start writing
         in the margins of anything at all
Only when I could face the damage on the pages
         the story I thought I was living-
only when I feared the denouement was near
         when I had so much to say
         and no one likely to mark it, including my own flighty mind

But I am still, moving, standing
         shackled and looking for kin
Hope may be dead on a prison wall, weightless
         disappearing under the rubble
yet so many keep
         treading home anyway
         making foot notes–
What do we name
         that which keeps us moving?

In the drought-stricken place beyond despair
         when we all seemed to be
         dancing on the rim of a burning basket
Then the books came alive
         under my pen and decisions
Columns deep as Alexandrian palimpsest
Ink spilt thick like stars, and everywhere
         the bad handwriting of truth
         experience, emotion
Confirmation of the good news all bound up with suffering

Defiance, habit,
What does it matter?
An egg will hatch and I will bear it
         ’til this nameless thing
Smaller, hardy bird of a rougher plain
Makes some call to set
the pace of my confident stumbling

There is no book-awe left, no sanctum sanctissima story-fear
         I don’t wear bells to read the words
I take my life in my turning hands-
Authors without count on the margins
It is because of you

She keeps singing so I keep walking
        by life and by death

Lucas Walker is a pastoral care associate at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. He is also a graduate of the seminary, earning a Master of Divinity in 2012 and Master of Arts in Theological Studies in 2015.

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