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Resurrection: cosmic, communal; Hopkins, Karr

For Easter, here are two poems, inspired again by the Christian Wiman interview. The first, Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection,” is, I would argue, neither primarily about Incarnation or about Crucifixion but instead about the cosmic relevance of the Resurrection. It also reminds me of the theology of Maximus the Confessor. The second, Mary Karr’s “Descending Theology: The Resurrection,” was one that Wiman himself mentioned in the interview as a poem about the Resurrection. Karr’s poem reminds me of the communal relevance of the Resurrection. And thus, it reminds me of the theology of Augustine of Hippo. Both, of course, are deeply Pauline (cf. Rom. 8 and 1 Cor. 12, among many others, of course)

Be sure to check out Karr’s poem “The Devil’s Delusion” and Wiman’s  poem “Witness” in the latest print issue of Commonweal.

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest's creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature's bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
                            Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
                            Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash:
                            In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
                            Is immortal diamond.


Descending Theology: The Resurrection
By Mary Karr
From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now

it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

About the Author

Scott D. Moringiello is the Lawrence C. Gallen Fellow in the Humanities at Villanova University where he teaches the Augustine and Culture Seminar and courses in the theology department. He blogs at dotCommonweal.

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Thank you for posting this poem by Mary Karr (I was hoping someone would!) - The last two lines are a perfect (Easter) punch. Of course I recommend reading all of the "Descending Theology" poems together (The Nativity, Christ Human, The Garden, The Crucifixion, The Resurrection) from her book "Sinners Welcome." Actually, I recommend the entire book. I've returned to those poems over and over again. 

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