This past weekend I participated in an awesome talent show featuring an all-star cast of students from New Saint Andrews. Flight of the Conchords met Nun Fight and Les Miserables played by kazzoo-ists. There were also original piano compositions and some crazy dancing. It was fantastic.
My entry was a pair of poems. Since a few folks have requested written versions, I am putting them up here, together with the introduction I gave that night. Since that part was a little more ad-libbed, it’s not verbatim.
PS. The line breaks are transferring weird. When I get some more time, maybe this weekend, I’ll come by and line them up a little better. (For instance, “field” and “yield” should be pretty much directly over one another, and stuff like that.)
Contrary to the way it may seem, if you know me, despite some of the incredibly stupid things I’ve done, my besetting sin in life is often over-thinking things. I like to come up with plans and schemes, ways of getting around whatever it is in life that terrifies me. And all too often I fail miserably.
Realizing this, I spent a little bit of time in the Gospel of John, and a whole lot more in the book of Ecclesiastes, searching for wisdom. In these two poems tonight, I hope to share with you what I think I’ve found there.
Once there was a preacher,
A true soul-teacher,
A man with a plan and the world in his hand,
A king of divine anointing,
A lord of Wisdom’s appointing.
Solomon the wise
Began an enterprise
To carefully devise a surefire way
To make this confusing world clear as day.
So listen up all you
Who Lady Wisdom pursue,
For these are the words of the king, and his words are true.
All that exist are as mist in the morning and fog on the creek,
They are smoke on the mountain, feeble and weak.
All plans are uncertain, all choices are bets,
The sun rises and sets
And every flower will fade,
And light passes to shade.
Every man will die, both you and I,
Who can say who will reach the sky?
I saw a man like a king,
Who could nobly sing.
But his generation came and went,
And when his life was spent,
Another took up his song,
But the very chorus was remembered wrong.
Dress yourself in silk or cotton,
But one day your frame will rot in
Your very kingdom will yield
To the force of time.
No chiseled verse or rhyme
Will commemorate your deeds.
For every king that rises, another king succeeds,
No matter how the old one pleads.
For all mean are men, and every man bleeds.
What? Will one of you weep?
Still hear, for wisdom is deep.
No man knows his way through the fog,
We are all trapped in this miry bog,
But there is one who sees it all,
And through the fog you can hear his call.
“Trust me, child of mine,
Like one drunk with wine
But if you will hear me, be humble.
Here in the passing shadows I have given joys,
Faithful friends and wondrous toys,
And if the sorrow is too great to bear,
Remember who has put you there.
You cannot see your way through the fog,
But I have not asked you to.”
Hear this wisdom, the words are true:
We are as mist in the morning or fog in the creek,
Like smoke on the mountain, both feeble and weak.
Like grass in the sun, we have our time and fade,
And, like a Father, God cares for every blade.
And so Solomon saw that there was nothing better under the sun
Than for man to eat, drink, seek fun
In the labor God has given him now.
Do justly, love mercy, humbly bow
Before God above.
No man can find out the ways of the world,
For the only way is love,
And that way cannot be tamed.
John one, verse fourteen, the Word became flesh.
Say it again and make it fresh,
Because until you understand
The firmness of the land
Beneath God’s feet,
How as a child his mom would give him treats,
You have failed to grasp the implication.
If you, O thinker, need a point in what I say, it’s this:
Live like God on a summer day—with bliss.
Carve on a chair, rule out a straight line,
Kick back with James, enjoy some wine,
And when you laugh, laugh divine.
Listen, O Scholar, real life is fine,
And it takes more than a mind.
Because, you see, a Platonic abstraction
Don’t understand attraction,
Can’t be driven to distraction
By a bride to be.
What good is eternity
To a floating mind?
Take away the flesh, and fruit is rind,
The only part of the watermelon I leave behind,
And that’s a shame.
And you should feel no shame.
I hope you dance like no one sees,
Take a chance and climb the trees,
Live with your wings out in the breeze,
Run in the wheat,
Smile in the freeze
Name every beast beneath the moon,
Don’t be afraid to rhyme with june,
Or set a poem to a well-known tune,
This is life.
The sound of a song, a resounding gong,
A well-thrown pass and going long,
Word without flesh is life gone wrong.
Grass between your toes,
When that girl crinkles her nose,
And don’t you suppose
That beneath the sun
God himself ran for fun?
Lose yourself in the music, the moment,
Get on it,
Like lightning flashing
In the sky,
In a flash we live and die.
That’s all we’ve been given, so start livin’
Like God himself on a summer day.
The Word, the truth, and the life,
That’s the way.
Forsake the night; embrace the day.
And now let my chatter cease,
Let all wisdom increase,
And may merry hearts fill this hall.
So much have I said, and that’s all.