Poems

& (ampersand)

What I love about the ampersand is its compactness
& the way it’s open to new& unexpected possibilities
almost forming an eternal figure eightbut not quite
for when the sentence seems to be over
or approaching its endthe ampersand appears
like the first of a hundred thousand well-armed angels
emerging from the backseat of a Volkswagen& improbable hope
eruptslike a new sunrisesharply piercing the skin of dark night
with radiating shards of light
& despite the smug sleepof the ninety nine sheep
when the wanderer’s gonethe good shepherd appears
with it draped across his shoulders& the lost coin
is swept from the cobwebs
& the prodigal stumbles homewhere his father watches
& waits& refuses to lose hopescanning the horizon
for his returning son& then he grabs the hem of his garment
& runs& it’s then we recognize the continual pattern
of conflict & resolutionof estrangement & reconciliation
& even of death & resurrection
a pattern that is by no means inevitablebut woven
like the arms of a twisting ampersand
into the fabric of the universe

The preceding poem first appeared in Sojourners, and was the winner of the 2017 Higher Goals Awards for Poetry from the Evangelical Press Association. It also appears in D.S. Martin’s collection Ampersand (2018, Cascade Books).
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The Sacrifice of Isaac

God told AbrahamKill your son for me& they
climbed Mount Moriah so there would be a great
distance of rockcloudshadow & light to be sliced in
two& the perplexing covenant might come to mind as
you stare toward the blue horizon

The knife seems to fall forever
as Abraham (looking like an old man Rembrandt
frequently sketched) palms the bound youth’s face
with a large determined hand to shield him from the
sight

The knife seems to fall forever
giving you time to think of bloody Passoverof Jesus
as sacrificial lambof what kind of god would ask so
much & what kind of father could do it (as a
windblown angel seizes the old man’s wrist)

Then you notice the eyesbloodshot & observant
of a ram caught in a thicketThis is no happy ending
Three centuries after Rembrandt
the knife still falls

This poem first appeared in Christianity & Literature, and has appeared in the anthologies Imago Dei (2012, Abilene Christian University Press), and The Turning Aside (2016, Cascade Books). It comes from D.S. Martin’s poetry collection Poiema (2008, Wipf & Stock).