This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by Cynthia Erlandson.
Foundations of the Cross
The First Generation: Abraham Takes Up His Loss
“And he went out, not knowing where he went.”
— Hebrews 11: 8
“For hope that is seen is not hope.”
It was not by human power that Sarah, bent
With barren decades, took the pilgrimage;
She only had her husband’s cryptic word
That God had spoken, and that they were sent
(Her womb still void) to build a heritage
For non-existent heirs — how absurd
It sounded. Nor was it by sight he led
Her there; he’d been given no visible token
But the faraway stars. Not knowing where he went,
He slept below the light of those stars’ unnumbered
Host, and dreamed about the singular nation
To which his wife would give birth one day. Encumbered
With faith – his heaviest load – in expectation
He gave a tithe, and was promised that his offspring
Would be slaves (a debatable blessing –
Dust of the earth, to be walked on,
Despised by Ishmael’s pagan elder nation,
Until the covenanted generation
Which he would never see.)
His endurance test
Was Sarah’s foreshadowing cross, and her bitter jest.
Having waited laughably long, and still now unblessed
Among women, she swelled intensely with discontent
As the very air expanded expectantly:
Brisk breezes inflated the flocks of servants’ tents;
They looked enlarged with laughter – seemed to mock
The woman’s antique biologic clock.
Camels and cattle continually procreated;
A bountiful offering of fruit was generated
In fertile dirt, from which unseen offspring seemed
To cry out from the ground till her weary spirit screamed
From the deadly depths of envy’s poison root
Ballooning below her skin as if it would burst.
By all appearances, she had been cursed.
While waiting for something unusual under the sun,
God’s chosen patriarch who had no son
Disconcertedly blurted the overdue question
About the aging promise and its requisite relation
For which he had waited in seeming futility:
The wealth that his work, and the hope that his faith, had merited –
Friendship with God, and the land’s fertility –
Still wearily waited to be inherited.
Cynthia Erlandson grew up in a suburb of Chicago, and discovered her love of literature and writing during high school. While in college, she took all the writing classes she could, and has continued to write poetry whenever she can. She has also been an avid Bible reader since high school, and has come to more deeply understand, and profoundly appreciate, the sacraments of the Church through the pages of the Old and New Testaments. One of her favorite themes is the connections between the two Testaments.
Cynthia’s poems have appeared in First Things, Modern Age, Touchstone, Measure Review, Anglican Theological Review, The Book of Common Praise hymnal, and A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation (ed. Luci Shaw), as well as smaller publications. Her collection of poems for the seasons of the Church year is called These Holy Mysteries, and can be found on Amazon.