Broken-down Poetry: Grace grows in winter


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Friday, October 29, 2010

Grace grows in winter

Grace doesn't grow in the springtime. Grace grows in the winter, when everything's dead, when life is the brown sludge beneath your rubber boots.

It comes as a surprise.

We talk about life as having seasons. In the spring, life is born. In summer, it's sustained. In fall, it starts dying and by winter, it's dead.

But what if that's not how it works at all? Maybe life is always about dying. Maybe it's about repeatedly dying to our worldviews, our theories, our ways of doing things, our attitudes, our agendas, our impatience, our sins.

I think the seasons of life take place between October and December. In October, we start dying, but not to the right stuff. We die to the good we've always known. In October, we sin.

Then by November, we've killed God. We have sinned enough to shut him out, to no longer care. We've let sin creep in, settle on our sofas and stay awhile.

In November we think we're screwed.

So we started messing around in October, now we're deep into this new way of living. It's easy to be short-tempered; it's easy to walk past you. We've become different people. We used to be, by the grace of God, patient people. Now look who we are.

Hope: it's gone. The trees stay green forever.

But in December, Grace grows unexpectedly. Up from the ground, under your feet, through the snow, through the dirt, through the frozen ground, Grace grows.

Thank God.

You don't need Grace in the summer when all is well. You need Grace when things couldn't possibly get any worse.


I wrote Late October first, while reflecting on sin -- my own sin -- and how it seemed unconquerable. A week or so after, I wrote Late November and Late December while plotting a way out of sin. I want a way out. I'm close.

It's been fall for a long time; now it's winter, and I've seen sprouts of Grace.

In the past week or so I've posted two of the three poems in this series. Here's the complete collection including Late December, my poem on Grace.


Late October

Late October
and the Norway maple hasn’t turned
red or orange or whatever color
Norway maples turn.

and tomorrow:
an endless cycle of green
and green and green
and green and green.

Through the window
the masochists
slit their wrists,
crying but with bliss.

Late November

Late November
and God is dead
like the maple trees and the leaves
falling out of them.

I did it
with a handful of the
foliage of God, yanking leaves
one by one by one by one
—just so I know he’s gone:
he’s dead.

God haunts still,
like apparitions, and
he howls through crooked
branches, waving:
Hi, I miss you.
Do you miss me?

Late December

Late December
and grace grows
like heaths. It is the
dead of winter,
yet grace grows in the dead
leaves crushed to the ground
and stomped upon,
with booted feet,
crushed into snow
and slush: grey, black,

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