In November 2009, the Spectrum blog published a multi-part poem by Andrews University emeritus professor A. Josef Greig, called Day Break on the Jabbok. Today, we are publishing an addendum to that poem.
On the seventh day, at the rising
of the moon, I awakened from a metaphor;
a journey from the Jabbok, the mother wolf and I:
she knowing nothing of the truth; I, the searcher,
vexed to find it. She, sinless, detached from moral
contemplation, killed without compassion,
yet spared me by her beastly resolution.
I was abandoned by the map makers,
left outside the boundaries of the promised land.
The mother wolf was my salvation from the lies of truth;
she contradicting nature, nature contradicting law,
watching me from the shelter of the trees,
beyond the barking dogs pursuing me, given the scent
of small change vanished from the offering plate.
The mother wolf and I, no place to rest;
our struggle to survive, an evolutionary paradigm:
suffering the seed of growth, becoming wolf, becoming man;
hardship and pain; with or without understanding,
no becoming without struggle; confronting the pack,
resisting the norm; facing the unknown with daring.
Hunted by my kind, wounded but not killed,
avoiding traps and snares, we set out to find the life
we shared, following a track backward, without a trail,
I confined to sight, making sense of nonsense,
she the instinct born of a wolf: when time gave birth
to law and life, water spilling from empty shells
turned to blood coursing through a myriad of veins.
Cloaked by shadows, slithering lines, merging footprints,
creatures turned to stone, become the mother wolf and I
seeded by a common mystery; nameless forces
shaping our faces, calling forth our voices: tongues and texts
from groans and grunts, becoming marks on stones,
impressions in clay, preserving knowledge, expressing
our nature in a world fashioned by creative being.
Born of two mothers conflicted,
wolf but not wolf; human but not fallen;
separate but inseparable, two degrees of being,
two instincts for living; two levels of suffering,
two natures intertwined in their wombs,
bursting forth at birth in mortal combat,
struggling with becoming; wolf and man,
man becoming god, god becoming man,
suckled by the wolf,
the consequence of our mixed heritage.
The mother wolf and I, one with the material
of stars, spewed out, mixed in new creations;
the dust of the dead, continuous in birth and death;
hunted down by those who lick the blood of the slain,
the taste of salvation, rejoicing in the victory over truth.
Descended from a beast, my true identity;
my original sin, when I became a man,
separate but inseparable, fallen but risen.
I found refuge in the wilderness; bounty on my head,
license to kill, none to rescue me from ignorance.
For me she was the wolf leaving the pack
clearing my mind of its impediments; my humanity
reflected in the mirror of her wild eyes.
I became a speaker of words, creating the unknown,
discovering the known, one with the world,
yet bringing it forth: naming the wolf, naming humanity,
naming the unknowable, reality and the gods.
Rising from my fall, by moonlight, I pierced my hands
and painted blood moon red; a firing neuron splashing paint
on the face of father god, the features of mother evolution,
an empty stone in space become a place of life,
a thing of beauty, embodied in the flesh of brains, creation, change,
evolving over eons in the light, until the darkness brought it forth.
This or madness, the sense of nonsense, liberation from
the freedom of slaves, of the folly of the fallen; a bird flying
over the prison wall, returning in freedom.
The mother wolf and I, threatened with extinction;
condemned, but reciprocating salvation, sustained at the moment
of death, beckoned by a mystery, enticed by an open door,
visions of a holy land, a place of safety; the lion and the lamb
are there, having made the same journey.
Two stories of our being: one of atoms, kin, and offspring,
natural selection, the Second Law, the stuff of science, of history;
the other, an instinct, birthed in the cognitive light of struggle,
refusing surrender to the executioners, those cutting off
our faces, blinding our eyes with the tyranny
of their knowledge, reducing us to compliant matter.
By resistance we exceed the sum of our parts,
glimpsing the whole, living a story of what we have become
and will become: open to the mystery of random gifts
painting on receptive canvass, chiseling life and law from
reluctant stone, verse flowing like water from a desert,
glimpsing a revelation in words, a truth from fiction.
A story told by those who will not die, born of imperishable faith;
swords beaten into plowshares, law bowing to universal love,
unapproachable god become our father, a dying and rising god,
returning to fulfill the promises; a living faith, cut loose from
things preserved in dust, searching through dead bones of history,
the rubble of the universe; embracing the present, contemplating
duty toward the world; affirming a future of brotherhood,
a shared evolution, a confessional destiny: metaphors of what
lies hidden in reality, intuited by the madness of poets.
By these intractable verities we shall endure.
Faith finds us in the wilderness, left short, holding to life,
following the cry of the crucified, upheld by a multitude bearing
his cross: chanting, dancing, singing hymns of joy,
the sweetness of fresh crushed grapes wafting above
a stench of rotting flesh, the perfume of a rose above the thorns;
learning what is good from the shadows of forsakenness, restoring
love through forgiveness, expecting light to separate from darkness.
How sad it is to leave the world an alien,
friends waving good bye wishing you a safe return
not knowing it can never be.
The journey is one way; come or be left behind.
A creature in disguise, a man, a wolf, a god; if they understood,
save for the cherished few, I would be hunted down,
banished to the wilderness, again lying in my blood.
I suffer by a memory, my impotence, unable to take them with me.
Departing for the farther shore, I watch them like a movie
of a distant past, watching myself praying, harmonizing
to old hymns, confessing to a world of static forms
that have not felt the brush or chisel, the clay that never
yielded to the hands of potters, unwilling to let time give birth
to beauty from all her grotesque random forms, reveling
in what imagination sees behind the veil; rejecting jeers of
learned men who fear the face of god.
The artist paints the beauty of a flower brought to light
by darker shades; the poet sinks with demons,
until suffocating in the abyss, fights for life and light,
gasping; uttering words hidden from the surface of experience,
embracing a primeval mystery shared through an eruption
of involuntary verse, an affirmation of our conflicted heritage:
suckled by the mother wolf, contemplating our place in evolution;
entangled in universal being, preserving who we are beyond
the death of our deteriorating mortal brains.
In the world, but not of the world, a sense of self, but not of ourselves;
we shall never know.
At one with the stone, the paint, and the clay; putting our mark
on reality; form enticing the hand and brush, whispering in our ear
every ballad born in the mists, returning to the mists when we give
chase in time and law. The poet sings his song, inspired by his journey
with the wolf; hearing the unwritten melody in wind and water, the sound
of whispering and babbling; nonsense that brings us to a terrible truth:
suppressed by dogmas, slapped down by men and gods, stripped
of our identity we storm their citadels to wrest back our humanity;
embracing our dreadful mother, suffering with the crucified
to bring both men and gods to truth.
A. Josef Greig is professor emeritus of religion and philosophy at Andrews University.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6047