Thursday, August 16, 2012

70 X 7

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

The namer was called unto the seventh day,
“Shabbat, my son.” But chose at length the sixth,
He and his wife.
And lived their life,
Between Monday morning and Saturday night
Grudging Sunday’s rest, clinging body and soul
To the thorns and sweat and pains of childbirth.

Nothing will induce me, so it seems
To rest.
At best
I slip back down,
From the sixth to the fifth;
And from carousing like a beast
I slide by slow degrees into the sloth
Of vegging out on youtube half the day.
Hardly worth
The blood and pain of birth
If I spend myself in becoming, step by step,
First a beast
(For there, at least,
Is strength to do!)
And then a vegetable in an armchair
And then a stone.
And when I’ve done,
My life’s ambition met,
As close to formless void as I can get.

Thank God for thorns.
For alarm clocks and early morns,
And all the harrying, hateful spurs of necessity
That drive me from the void. Some energy
At minimum I must spend to eat
To drive, to earn respect of all my peers.
And then, who knows? My ears
Attuned to frequencies beyond my normal ken
Hear the seventh faintly ringing through
The cacophony of egos, appetites and fears.

But Now I find myself back
Where I started this poem. My lack
Of rest.
For any slackness in my rodent race.
I nervously sit through Sunday and my face
Betrays impatience for Monday.
“No rest for the wicked,” is not a punishment
But a simple statement of fact. When what is meant
Is understood, one might as well put forth
“No food for the hungry.” But of course!
That is why they are hungry.

And every seven days another chance
To put down spade and crackberry and learn to dance
So that on Monday, (On taking up once more
These workday dance partners) we might even up the score
And teach new steps to those who made us step
Like geese, in time to the rhythm of our clocks
Marching under orders from our sterile gods.
When drill sergeants learn to dance, they lend a measure
To what would otherwise be merely raucous pleasure.

And every seven years the land lies fallow
Untilled, unsown,
Left on its own
To see if it might
Yield in its own right.
The rest of the years are to learn from this year of rest
That all work is but a joining in, another way to divest
Myself of my self. Work is but another way to receive,
It has that in common with stillness. But I deceive
Myself when I think my work is mine, or grain
Or fruit or flocks or words in print. Once again
Working is just another form of begging
And sitting in prayer as much a form of legging
As commuting to work.

The Rock was taught a thing or two that day
How many times must Sunday come around?
Before I no longer need to work at rest?
But we are never lodger, always guest
And Monday is meant to vanish once for all.
Shabbat alone remains.
Live in the other six days all you want.
Stay there, if you wish, triple them up.
The beast, the vegetable, the rock, the void
Alike are destined for one thing: to be destroyed.
Only the human who has the strength to be
At peace in Him Who Is, can become like He.

How many times must I become at peace?
All of them.
Rest is stronger than work and so it costs
Everything. Not one thing less. All must be lost
In order to be found. But so it yields:
Peace times fullness of peace;
Rest times fullness of rest;
Joy times fullness of joy;
Life times fullness of life.
This is Heaven.
70 X 7.

See also Genesis 2:3, Leviticus 25.

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