Jacob Stratman – Three Poems

The Weavers

Jan Hus Before the Council of Constance, 1415 (1926) byVaclav Brozik

Remember the punch-line from the family
story we always told at Christmas the one
that forced us to the internet to learn more

about the Moravians more than the spice
and sugar cookies we would eat thin as our memory
of them about Jan Hus a Lutheran before Luther

tried and condemned at the Council of Constance
standing straight and solemn in black cloak
according to Brozik in the middle of the painting

in the middle of accusing color and gaze
later to be burned for heresy the one
that brought Tom to mind the kind church

sexton who couldn’t see that well
who played in a bowling league ate apples whole
core and all and let us pull the bell ropes

to welcome the chosen frozen the one
that always led to more talk about nativity
scenes the kind that use live animals

the ones outside McDonalds that use
the Hamburgler Ronald and the Fry Guys
as the holy family or the more dramatic ones

that use live plants mosses stones sticks
and little mirrors for water to show Christ’s
birth ministry death the one that left mom in tears

the one that needs to be woven each year
while we wait for childhood to return
like the winter Cedar Waxwings 

decorating tree tops with red and gold
those holidays of hyperbole woven
in the early hours of day carefully

like Grandma rising early to make bread
or Hayden’s father shining shoes in the dark
a preparation a commemoration a eulogy

a liturgy the story in waiting that is unwoven
only to be retold rewoven renewed
the next year with bolder strokes and brighter colors

A prayer for my sons when they fight with the one they love

I know a guy
who had a sextuple bypass

yesterday.  How can anyone
forgive with a muscle

like that?  Forgiveness
is impossible

for any human
heart, with its cracks

and fissures; its plaque
build-up, narrowing

any space for blood
flow; its irregularity;

its want to beat
too fast or too slow;

its mirrors
that reflect images

larger, closer than they actually appear;
its bruises that rarely

turn yellow. This is not
a poem.  This is a plea. 

A poem for my sons when they serve lunch at soup kitchens

When my Uncle Ron walked into the church
kitchen ten minutes before the annual
youth group luncheon, wearing that shirt

Eat your rice burner Put your ass
on some class Ride a Harley
, the two
old ladies, wrist thick in cream

of mushroom soup, green beans,
and fried onions, thought he was one
of the homeless.  They scampered: 

one after the Pastor, my father,
his kid brother; and the other
after a ham sandwich and a Tab.

He would always just show up
“on his way to sell ketchup popsicles
to women in white,” Pop would say,

“looking like Grizzly Adams.”
This time, with his bike parked outside
the front door, the one painted red,

he ate the sandwich and sipped
the Tab at the head table
of the annual youth group luncheon

at Second Presbyterian Church, wearing
that shirt and that shit-eating grin
your grandma called the S.E.G. in polite company.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

I want to believe that beauty exists when a person or a natural object is completely and utterly itself. And, in my faith tradition, beauty exists when we see that we belong to a Creator of beauty and love and grace and hope and that our lives are bound to glorify that Creator—that I am always in the process of creating beauty, delighting in beauty, and being beautiful.


Jacob Stratman’s poems have been published (or are forthcoming) in The Lullwater Review, Plough Quarterly, The Christian Century, Rock & Sling, Wordgathering, among others. He teaches in the English department at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR.