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Bryana Johnson

Honorable Mention Rhyming: 2010 Novice Christian Poetry Contest $100

About this Christian Poet:
Bryana Johnson is a 17-year-old highschool senior. She has been homeschooled all her life and spent twelve years overseas in Turkey. She has enjoyed writing poetry from a young age and in July 2010 she won a second place prize in the 2010 HSLDA poetry contest. An avid reader of C.S. Lewis and Amy Carmichael, her favorite poets are G.K. Chesterton and Emily Dickinson. In her free time, Bryana enjoys gardening, painting with acrylics, playing guitar with her younger sister, writing songs, and watercolor journaling.

About this Poem:
“The Hound of Heaven” is a re-working of 18th century poet Francis Thompson’s poem by the same name. Thompson’s masterpiece deals with God’s relentless pursuit of a rebellious human heart. It’s always been a tremendous inspiration for me and an encouragement when I’ve been praying for various people I love. In this re-working, I wanted to highlight the sensory aspects of the metaphor, bringing to life the “hound” that Thompson only touched on. I also hope my work will underline the startling size of the hand of God as He works everything out for His glory. While the poem at times develops an almost threatening tone, there is really nothing morbid whatsoever in the subject matter. The idea that God haunts and chases a person who is not yet of His Kingdom in order to make them so, strikes me as a thing to really celebrate.

The Hound of Heaven

He put a hound on you—I asked Him to—
an animal with gasping, wild breath,
and groping teeth and lunging, starving eyes,
and he will catch you, it's as sure as death.

Two miles from town and by the clock of night
1:00 in the morning, we found prints of yours  
tracking the snow with frightened sneaker-feet
and followed them right to the bolted door.

By windowlight I saw your silhouette, 
made out your shape, your blackness, in that room
"Snap leashes! Subject bolting for the door!"
and all His dogs came raging after you.

We watch you jerk through darkness from the steps, 
and hurtle over winterfallen white
and after you they come like bullet bursts
and howls curdle blood and chill the night.

Your sleeping days are over—you will run,
your sitting-down time gone—you will pound feet.
We love you and the only way to show
it, is to free you from your sultry peace.

The world rolled out before you—you have room
Press hard heels into firm dirt—you can run,
You have a lifetime to attempt escape,
Go for it—let us know when you are done.

You will not tear forever over fields,
and up the rocks and crannies of the walls—
you will not run the circle of the world
unending—someday you will trip and fall.

You will wear tired and you will miss steps
someday toes slide and you will feel the ledge
His hounds will find your flesh and meet their teeth
through frenzied skin, and drag you from the edge.

I told Him softly, “I have one I love,
one distant and one orphaned from the day.
Maybe you could send a couple dogs
To take him down and bring him in someday?”

Copyright ©2010 by Bryana Johnson