Second Prize 2008 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $500
About this Christian Poet:
Karen Winterburn lives in Glenview, Illinois with her husband. They have four grown sons and two beautiful granddaughters. Karen works in Adult Faith Formation in her parish church, St. Catherine Laboure. She has written articles and contributed chapters to two books on evangelization and apologetics. She has been writing poetry for many years as a means of understanding and expressing a relationship with God.
About this Poem:
This poem is the second in a dialogue between God and me. In the first poem (a few lines too long to enter in the contest), I thanked God for calling me home, and decribed what each step was like for me. In this poem, God graciously shares with me what such a homecoming is like for him. He seeks us out, restores us to community of faith and love, and draws us, step by step into a more intimate relationship with himself.
Call Out of Exile
I have not cast you off, my vagabond.
It is I who have borne you from your birth,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
Why then must I seek you among foreign flocks,
and through caravans of imposters cry out your name?
Have I wearied you with tending, that you wither far from Me?
Is the tent of my Name too threadbare to enter,
that you do not call upon Me?
Look up! Look up, my poor one! Where have you fallen?
I come wounded to bind you up, thirsty to refresh you.
Don't be a stranger to your Father's feast. It is I who Host you,
I, who crush the wheat and press the oil. It is I who mix my wines.
How long will you linger by half, little sister?
Here, I send out your brother with meat for your mind.
Open and taste! See the passage I make for you,
the ground I've leveled by the weight of my waiting?
Arise and come! Put on again your everyday jewels that blaze
with the light from my hearth, and come with Me to the kitchen.
Let me tie your apron for the work at hand.
Have I held my peace too long, restrained Myself past the measure
of your freedom? You cup your will like a brazier for Me.
No more will your memories shame you, my little one,
nor fear alarm, nor doubt cry out, "Where is your God?"
One look at you, and the fury of my Love is stirred up against them.
I make them tinder to kindle your sparkle,
and a sweet-smelling smoke to console you.
I am a Man of War for you, an Army of Love;
and I am the wakeful Governor of your peace.
How have I not noticed that gleam in your eye?
What numb thirst is sealed up in you against all taking-by-surprise,
that I may come and slake it? what delights concealed there
that I might relish, should you return the favor and I be taken too?
Stay with Me a moment in the parlor. Don't dart away
to peek at Me over your books and prayers.
Promises I whispered long ago into your secret ear
are kept here in this ivory box under the hidden stair
for just such a time as this. Open it!
the whole fruit from tender buds,
poetry in foreign tongues,
the end from the beginning
Promises I made to you in a fit of love when you were young
now come to term and seek the light.
Will you join your poor Partner in the garden now
that He may keep his word to you? Let's dance!
Every move a metaphor—restrained, oblique—a gloved touch
I keep in custody till you awake
and I can take you to the edge of light.
There forget the limits of desire
when my glove has touched your craving
and you awake past day and into night.
Hold still, my love, hold still when you awake past day and into night.
Copyright ©2008 by Karen Winterburn