This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by Doug Taylor-Weiss.
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
How can a man be born when he is old,
When creases form where none were seen before,
And crimes are stacked and dusty on the floor,
And smiles fade out when last year’s jokes get told?
How can a man be born when life is past,
When even suffering’s cry has been forgot,
And fallow seasons occupy his lot
In measured rhythms plodding to the last?
That which is born of flesh is flesh, and blood
Gives birth to blood in season. Old men stand back
And page through things that fail or fold or lack,
Scanning for rescue, expecting at length the flood.
Teacher, can you teach me not to die
Nor yet to shrink from death which binds us all,
A gallows standing bare in each man’s stall,
With just indictments scribed and every lie?
Cover my head now; guard me from the sky.
My wind is fickle, wheezing when I sing.
I glance up once and see a common thing
As once again an innocent must die.
Now roars the night; I can’t accept this gift.
This storm from heaven’s quarter rattles through
My settled living room and floods my flue.
My floor submerged, my knick-knacks start to drift:
All that I’ve bought and sifted through and prized—
Everything radiates my style: discerning
Distinctives, countless hours of earnest learning—
So much detritus which my life comprised.
As daylight breaks, a serpent on a stake
Standing above the flood of figurines
Wrings out my lecher-life and scares some fiends
Who, squealing curses, plunge into the lake.
Might I desire again what now is gone,
The particles and pieces I have lost?
All things are not forever wrecked and tossed;
There lies ashore a bashful, teeming lawn.
Yet the empty stake presides. That bare except
A man is born of water and of wind
Prevails. Look! Sails are raised where once we sinned;
Fresh spirits bend the mast where once we wept!
Doug Taylor-Weiss served many years as a Protestant minister before entering into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2016. He teaches in various capacities and, with his wife, sings in two liturgical choirs. They live in Grand Rapids. He was a participant in the Colosseum Institute under James Matthew Wilson in 2019 and plans to return in 2020.