a response in kind
Paradoxes has on occasion recommended the writings of mcduffee at Fruit of His Lips. They are not what might be considered standard blog reading—or standard reading by any standard.
mcduffee’s articles are academic yet artistic, intellectual yet contemplative, evangelical yet transcendent. Time spent reading these engrossing, exhaustive articles makes the reader that perhaps poetry is, after all, the ideal vehicle for theology. That, perhaps, the role of theology is to explain poetry.
A recent post brings together contemplation of art, composition of poetry, consideration of the divine mysteries. “Color does Everything” explores the spiritual nuance of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom (1889). As this exploration as crawled through my mind, I could think of no other way to respond than to continue the discourse in the same manner.
“Visit me,” mcduffee wrote. With apologies for imitation, I accept that invitation, and welcome the reader to a room of my own.
I*, too, have a room, if pegless,
a coat and two hats that I
cannot find when I need them.
I, too, have a door, a bed
to seek when I would
under the weave and stitching of skillful hands
and under the blessing G-d gives
to His Beloved, sleep. And yet
is fleeting, as the soul tormented
tries to paint
while swirling into hell.
‘And in that sleep of death, what dreams may come…?’
The mind, unleashed, twists strange fancy
around depths of thought.
For imagination, questing after truth,
fervent and ceaseless in all means,
there is no rest.
I, too, have a room, and a bed.
A hat, a coat, a door.
I have also a wardrobe,
where silent I stand, to listen,
to hear stories whispered on storm-filled nights
the mind in sleeplessness rioting still.
I have a room, but a room gives
So I wait to catch a thief unawares,
to surprise myself at my own doing,
remembering childish tales,
waiting for the bite of wind at my back.
I stand alone among crowding coats,
waiting for the wardrobe to open again.
*Forgive, if you will, this irrelevant pronoun, seeming in some ways an assertion strangely juxtaposed to the humility of one who calls himself only .~. For myself, I cannot find myself separated from the use of my keyboard, nor dare I aspire to imitate the humility of another.
The beauty and tragedy that is the work of Van Gogh may perhaps be understood a his fear of painting Gethsemane, the agony of the sleepless night left unexpressed save only through every other possible means. This is the thought not of a student nor even an artist, but of one who perhaps dares to aspire to the same—the painted perhaps left unpainted, but lived and written everywhere else. If there is no heaven for Van Gogh, is there a heaven for anyone?
And yet the adjuration to cling gives me pause, to ponder in all humility how well could I cling without sacrament and vision? The presence made edible fed Israel in their sojourn (so the Rabbis say). Can I hope to set myself as better when I know my own capacity for doubt? The word brings me to the place of vision, and through bread and wine I understand in part to Wh-m I cling, that blue-yellow parrot shirts and six-shooters may be instruments of grace.