Tim Gavin – Five Poems
Here on this mountain. Stars storm out of the dark sky.
Children dance in rhythm to night winds.
Lightning on distant ridges reveal
another hurricane to come.
Ploughed rows furrow deep into soil
That has been treated with potassium and seed.
Hoping for plantains or yams or sorghum
To root deep. Rrain won’t wash sprouts
Down the mountainside, funneling all dreams
Of a cereal crop and stalks out of the reach
Of the children who dance beneath
The storm of stars whirl about the village.
Tiny raindrops building to hurricane hail.
Dawn In The Central Plateau
Night enters each morning my window;
No glass – just cut block – but a promise
Of shadows. Moderation in a world
Of meager rations. Think of the three
Souls who braided my mat from banana leaves.
Murmuring prayers to a god
Of obscurity above the tiny church
Where everything on the large mountain
Surrenders to dawn; where brief belief
Of paradise flowers, winks and arches away from sleep
While night turns away from my window,
Leaving on the floor scattered spots of dancing.
I imagine the trees once lining these vast mountains.
Green. Vibrant as the sun bleaching these stones
Lining the river basin. The distance
Disappearing into yesterday’s revolt.
The Central Plateau hiding the armed slaves
And Toussaint planning his next hit and run.
I imagine these vast mountains and
Blood stained limbs. Broken in half
Heart beats where breath
Meets air and some-
How the welcomed dark
Makes infinity fade. Nothing.
Water through a funnel. I imagine
These trees. Tall. Regal. With birds
Nested in leaves. Singing
And swaying in the wind
Missing them as one forgotten love
Abandoned on one false summit or another.
Balance of grace and steel buoys its body.
Wings slice through the light,
Scissor kicking a wake of dust in its path.
Strength. Grit grips its heart,
Grinding through life as it soars
To the horizon. Mountains
Overlooking the oppressed. Hungry.
A pair of lungs pink. Ballooned –
Glides from breath to spirit,
Craving a gospel level – a bubble –
Balancing the broken body.
Winged in grace and butchery –
One wing loving the poor;
the other saving the rich.
The sun covers a high arc over Cerca
And hovers over the Artibonite River, which
Curves through one mountain then another,
A serpent coiling itself into deceit.
The barren land grants no shade
To the school girl carrying water
Balanced on her head like a giant spool
Of precision. She walks –
regal and tall –
A bead of sweat frames her face
And still she dreams of becoming godlike;
Her nut-brown eyes suggest maturity
Beyond her school years. The water, impure,
Offers hope as she navigates
The trail running from the source
Of the spring to her home where her mother
Sits nursing a hungry infant who
Will become another victim
Of these fruitless mountains
By the time the sun sets
In the far arc of space.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
I see beauty as a spiritual force in the world, which may reconcile suffering and pain into an intimate moment of beauty and solemn joy. Beauty to me isn’t a physical entity, although it can be. I can observe a beautiful person or a beautiful painting or a beautiful athletic play. However, I have stood beside a number of death beds in which a life was coming to a close and the family expressed their good byes and shared their love. The moment of the last breath lingers and silence envelops the room. The intimacy of such a scene contains a certain beauty that can only be experienced by those who are present. Beauty is art. Beauty is life. Beauty is pain and suffering. Beauty is joy and glory. Beauty is in the hereafter. That’s why the music of Bob Dylan will love on. That’s why Ovid’s Metamorphosis will live on. That’s why The Bible will live on. All of these works contain the suffering and joy of the human condition. Beauty embraces both ends of the spectrum.
Tim Gavin is an Episcopal priest, serving as the head chaplain at The Episcopal Academy, located in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. He oversees the school’s volunteer service cooperative and its partnership program with St. Marc’s School in the Central Plateau of Haiti, which he visits three to four times a year. His poems have appeared in many journals and most recently in The Anglican Theological Review, Chiron Review, Screech Owl Review, The Lake, and Blue Heron Review. He lives with his wife and sons in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.