Hossanah in the Highest
a poem about Palm Sunday
at Church of Our Saviour (Episcopal)
Mill Valley, CA USA
by Peter Menkin
This morning we spoke
about children leading
worship. We waited together.
Yesterday there was
bright blue white lightning
flash, and the thunder.
Light rain broke in.
God speaks in the thunder;
I could not make out
what he said. So subtle.
the worship service
at another Church,
a man and wife said.
Today at ours they gave out
palms, and walked
after blessing them,
arms stretched out
hands above the palms
during the blessing.
We took the blessing
from the children.
Holy moments, special
between the words.
Why this joy?
Note that this poem, from 2002, was recently posted and still remains posted on the Academy of American Poets writers workshop ( www.poets.org ) .
This response by me to a poet's criticism (poet's name, RayBrown):
Thank you for the careful reading. I'll look what you've said more closely than I have, and see what I think. I appreciate your careful and interested read.
I wouldn't be surprised if this poem needs revision, it sometimes takes me a while to do so--even years. As you can see, it is a poem already 6 years old.
I do note that there are some aspects that make sense to me, but that they don't make sense to a reader isn't a good sign. One that jumps at me is that the couple from the other church say at theirs the children led the service. At this Palm Sunday the children offer a blessing, but do not lead. The palms and children are blessed prior to their "procession" and blessing the congregation by waving greenery which is dipped in holy water, the priest leading and blessing first as they processe. (If memory serves correct.) Maybe this isn't clear. It is a lovely picture, nonetheless, and in their way the children are helpers and implication of "a little child" as the Biblical note says in a number of places. It is an act of purity and innocence, too, for the congregation.
I am not so sure the poem is served well by entering into these areas in words. As the deeds in the liturgy speak, so does the description of the acts themselves represent these many sided meditations.
They walked among us is a kind of phrase that one hears, as He walks among us, as in Christ. (I even think of when Jesus the Christ did so at the end, as in spirit and body, after the resurrection. Anyway:) The implied being that the blessing is one of a faiithful activity and spirit, and is Holy as Christ is holy, thereby defining a kind of nature of being and holiness.
Again, maybe not specific enough, but this is a poem about an Episcopal or Anglican service, not an any denomination or ceremony as generic. As I say, liturgy speaks and says. It is a statement as well as participatory form.
Maybe I defend in explanation, but partially my remarks to you are also notes to me.
I think that the children are blessed in the same manner as the congregation, or we, so your point an interesting one as reader is not intended by me to offer We are blessed by children more than they blessed. I do like the idea, though. There is a kind of sweetness in it that is almost like an Easter card. Sometimes good.
You have many good suggestions, and food for thought. So thanks again. I will think some more, as I must decide if I need to flesh out the poem or if in its simplicity it tells of the procession and event of the liturgical Season well enough, even if in so stark and understated a way that has ambiguities. Are these ambiguitites worthwhile? I ask, too.
With thanks for your crit,
Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.
Copyright Peter Menkin
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