Poetry, Prophets

“I am no prophet”

(Pondering in advance of the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)

Then Amos answered Amaziah, "I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.' (Amos 7:14-15, NRSV)

Once, she added, she found herself in the woods with no pen and so later went around and hid pencils in some of the trees. (Mary Duenwald, writing about the poet, Mary Oliver, in yesterday's New York Times)

Does anyone really want to be a prophet?

Confronted by God, engaged to bring those words people may not want to hear–those words people do not want to hear, the poet–

Ah, but what am I saying? I began to write about prophets, but twice I have typed poet instead and this time I will not correct it.

Poet, it slips in, that word.

Prophet, it sticks out, suggests danger to yourself and others, the danger of truth, the sharp edge of what God wants us to know.

"God told me to tell you…"

I hope not to be so direct, because do I know, really, who God hopes will hear my words?

I do not.

Does anyone really want to be a poet?

This time I type it purposefully; I ask myself the question.

Some moments, places, sounds defy prose, just as the prophet's encounter with God defies ordinary understanding. We know about the plumb line, the thing-a-ma-bob used to keep things correctly upright, in a straight line, vertical and connected to the God out there and above us, He Who Orders Sycamore Dressert to Prophesy.

But what about the God we reach by the spiral journey, inward? We travel on the seemingly unceasing round,see the same landscape passing by, each time deeper and closer to Her.

Perhaps She is the poet's God.

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