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Alex Barbera

Honorable Mention: 2016 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $100

About this Poet:
I’m currently a graduate student in Hamilton, Ontario finishing up my masters degree in theological studies. Before that, I did a BA in English literature, and I recently began the University of Toronto’s certificate program in creative writing. Needless to say, I am passionate about the intersections of art and faith, the literary and the theological. When I get a moment’s reprieve from the demands of academia, I’m usually hanging out with my family or working on one of my creative writing projects.

About this Poem:
I grew up in the Pentecostal tradition. This poem represents my nostalgic effort to capture the quasi-ecstatic culture at revivalist camp meetings I experienced as a young adolescent. I wrote this poem as a homage to Pentecostalism and its unique embrace of raw, unmediated spiritual expression, because if there’s any contemporary Christian tradition that can be said to have mystical leanings, it's Pentecostalism. For many (myself included), the crucible of mysticism is the optimal place in which to engage God and foster spiritual imagination. As I started to reflect back on my experiences, however, I realized the humanity of it all, the emotionalism and sensationalism we were told to believe was the Holy Spirit. So both ambivalence and contradiction permeate the speaker’s perspective. And yet, in writing this poem, I came to appreciate charismatic sensationalism for the very reason I was starting to shun it: its humanness.

This is His Holy Sanctuary

This Is His Holy Sanctuary
the preacher announces the Spirit’s arrival
for never having entered the room.

This Is His Holy Sanctuary
his absence is our drought.
But slowly, His presence begins to fall like rain on Christ’s confessors.

This Is His Holy Sanctuary
bleeding we chant this, trying to touch the garment of God
for this we know can never be done.

This is his holy sanctuary,
where love is music and ecstasy is a mist that settles on the dewy faces of
devoted ones
this is his holy sanctuary,
where the bare skin of free teen feet stands on sacred carpeted ground
this is his holy sanctuary,
where banality is exorcised
the affliction of the humdrum is rebuked
hot tears and spills of unintelligible heavenly utterances
transcend the confines of the grammars of God
We are all at once blood, pulse, heartbeat, the catholic communion of vivified beings
the tangibility of divinity incarnate,
the eschaton enacted.

This is the tabernacle of the Holy of Holies
where the incense of profane passion burns late into the morning,
the mind of Christ makes atoning self-sacrifice for the animal body:
the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

This is his holy sanctuary
And he will slink about it undetected, weaving between the dancing
and prostrate bodies.

Copyright ©2016 Alex Barbera