23 June 2015

Sulamith: Desiring You

Song of Songs

I want to get drunk
with you,
with the sweet, heady wine of your love.
I am starving for you;
my whole body aches
with desire like a fire
consuming me until
I am satisfied in you.
Intoxicate me,
let this love go to my head;
take me now
and fill me up with you.

I want to drown
in you,
in the endless depths of your love.
Parched in the desert I cry for you;
all of my being needs you.
How can I exist
apart from you?
I want to spill myself out
and be consumed by you.
Surround me,
drag me down into the floods;
take me now
and make me part of you.

I want to hide
in you,
in the cool, quiet shade of your love.
Let me lie in your arms
entranced by your presence,
dreaming in the comfort
of your warm embrace.
Cover me with your mantle,
hide me beneath your wing,
take me,
marry me,
make me your own.
Take me now
and make me one with you.


[22. June 2015]

In case you didn't notice, this is about God. ;-)
I got inspired to write this while reading Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr (really good and thought-provoking book!). In one chapter, he speaks of the connection between divine love and human love. In that chapter, Rohr says on prayer: "Often the imagery becomes sexual, because it is the only adequate language to describe this contemplative experience." - "Religious images were once 'sexual': passionate, suffering, naked, bleeding, familial, and relational."

So if you're thinking I was "pushing boundaries" with the imagery here: it was intentional (sorry, not sorry). If you have a problem, go read Song of Songs.

In general, Song of Songs gets interpreted in these 2 ways:
  1. It is about the love of a couple.
  2. It is a parable of God's love.
I find it interesting to consider how we can actually speak of our relationship with God like we speak of a human relationship... not just in the "best friend" sense but even, as in Song of Songs, with (pretty strongly) sexual imagery. Of course, in religious circles we have become so used to hushing up sex or speaking of it only in connection to sin, that this can be difficult to accept. We tend to relativise or "soften" certain images that pop up all over the place in the Bible, e.g. the marriage imagery that appears really often to describe God's relationship to His people. Maybe we need to let these images challenge us anew, instead of making them "child-safe" and palatable for our feeble constitutions.

Some references in this poem: Psalm 42 and 63 (thirsting for God), and the "mantle" and "wings" imagery from Ezekiel 16 and the Book of Ruth. Covering with a mantle is a symbol for engagement.

Picture by Gustav Klimt.

07 June 2015

Asenath: Stranger

Genesis 41:45

He burst into my life,
a stranger
with strange ways
and strange dreams,
a strange story
of a god who led him
through shame into glory -
and I loved him.

He burst into my life,
and brought into question
all the things I held on to,
everything I believed.
He opened the door
to a world I never knew,
frightening and new -
and I loved him.

He broadened my horizons,
stretched my imagination;
he was my piece of foreign land,
here to see,
here to touch,
my very own glimpse
beyond my borders
into the wider world.
And I'll never be the same,
because, with him,

You burst into my life
and turned it upside-down.
You challenged my beliefs,
and drew my love on you -
on you, the strange God,
whom I saw in all he did,
whom I heard in all he said,
whom I loved in loving him.
I love him
but what I love was made by you -
so how could I not love you too?


[15. May 2015]

Asenath was Joseph's wife and daughter of an Egyptian priest (Gen 41:45).

There is an intertestamental / apocryphal book (what I like to call "ancient biblical fan-fiction", because in a sense it is) about Joseph and Asenath, and in particular about her conversion to Judaism (of which we don't read in the Bible). I read it last year - for fun, further study and in preparation of this poem (which has taken me half a year to write...). It's very interesting (the inter-testamental apocryphs all are, if you take them as fan-fiction and not as authoritative like the Bible); you can read it [here] if you like.

What struck me about the apocryphal story - and ended up flowing into this poem - is how it is about someone coming to faith through seeing the life of her husband. The Bible does not mention Asenath ever accepting Joseph's beliefs, but she would have been faced by them. So in this poem I focused on the one hand on the "meeting of cultures" in what was a cross-cultural marriage, and on the other hand on how through knowing Joseph, Asenath may have come to know God.