As April comes to a close, we are honoring Poet Timothy Matthew Slemmons. He teaches homiletics (preaching) and worship at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, and is the poet of The Just, Quiet Wind.
He will be sharing his poem “Mark 10:2-16” with us today.
P&W: Your poem “Mark 10:2-16” is quite profound. What led you write it?
TS: You would ask me about the one poem in the collection that is probably the most mysterious, even to me.
I think [it] has to do with the curious fact that Jesus, when asked about divorce and when correcting his disciples who were preventing children from coming to him, in both instances answered in such a way as to direct one’s thoughts to what God first intended when man and woman were brought together.
In saying divorce is not what God desires, he refers to the original joining of man and woman in a way that is not to be separated. And, in telling us children are those to whom the kingdom of God belongs, he points to youth, even infancy, not adulthood. So I suppose I was trying to get at that sense of intimacy in marital love, as well as the sanctity of family life and childlike trust — the intimacy which best reflects the order of things as God intended.
Not that the state of the family today measures up to that intimacy, but I want to hold onto the possibility that, even in blended households, the “little church” of family life can indeed become, at least every once in a while, a reflection of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
This is perhaps best conveyed in the poem’s final line. It describes the child of the kingdom: a babe need only reach out for what she has set her eyes upon and the responsive parent — God — does the rest, carries her to her heart’s desire. In this case, since we are talking about the kingdom of God, “the blue distant shore” just seemed to evoke the heart’s longing for heaven.
Before there were lawyers and prosecuting attorneys
Before there was Torah on shatterless stone
Before there was Moses on the mountain of God
Before there was Satan and the snake he resembled
There was woman, there was man
And there was love
There came a father who sired a son
There came a mother who bore him
There came a girl who captured his heart
And his heart was not divided
There was man, there was woman
And there was love
Do not talk or ask about after
Only remember what was before
Hold in your heart your love for all children
And reach and be carried to the blue distant shore …
— New Kensington, PA; October 3, 1997
To read the full interview, please be on the lookout for his article in the next IN THE LIGHT magazine issue.