I was at a meeting today and we were asked to reflect on the end of Genesis, when Joseph asks that his descendents return his bones to the Holy Land: “When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.” Here’s the poem I sketched out as my reflection:
I think I left some bones in Wisconsin.
A bonfire’s yellow sparks in still air –
a morning when I walked across a dewy meadow –
long weeds silting the water that our oars pulled through.
I pull these bones into the present and accept the past
as a memento mori, memory as the substance of mortality.
So much of this past adheres to the otherworldly symmetry
of holy places – Holy Hill, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
We named them and defined their sacredness by our uses,
even if the use was only to step into green light,
auburn shadows, not to pray but to spend a moment
standing in the atmosphere of polished wood.
I remember sun and dust across a whorled floor,
hard boards pressed against my back,
the day still beside the windows
and domesticity enchanted, the sacred here,
sleeping with my child in the next room.
I remember my wife in that moment.
Which bones are most worthy of processions through the wilderness?
Where is religion, really, in a traveling person?
Is it in memory’s corpse, in the timeless chapel,
the house in summer? When God comes,
we carry bones. Not through silken meadows.
Not over remembered hills. But everywhere.
All at once.