Friday, April 27, 2012

exile - scott cairns

Here exactly-a little elbow room. Here, in this margin of poor housing, harsh climate, and unreliable municipal services-something of a breathing space.

Have you seen the faces of the wanderers? Even in the midst of lamentation (especially then), they are radiant, wide-eyed and weeping, open-mouthed, keening at the tops of their lungs, and delirious with joy and purpose.

Even as the familiar supplications for delivery ascend alongside the fragrance of the sensors, even as their voices rise to astonishing volume, and a number of garments-for emphasis-are torn beyond repair, even as the ritual of despair attains unbearable pathos, the blessed appear to be taking some pleasure in the whole affair.

They have their etymologies too, after all-Holiness finding at its root a taste of separateness, fragmentation, periodic disruption in the status quo. Of course they are wandering toward something, but not in any great hurry.

Soon enough, they will come upon a day when the journey is fully behind them, when their colorful tents will be rolled up for good and left to rot in some outbuilding. Soon enough, the carts and litters will decay, the herds grow fat and unused to travel. Soon enough, the land will pull them in to stay.

And of their exile? nothing will remain except the memory-fading even so-of a journey and a life with few oppressive properties, a daily jaunt unparceled by boundaries or taxes-in short, an excursion expressed for a season between the demands of heathen kings and their last, conclusive embrace.

Cairns, Scott. "Exile" Upholding the Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 197-198.