Got word late last night that Relief A Christian Quarterly Expression has accepted a (very) long poem of mine for publication. I don’t have all the details yet, but if they took it all, then wow, because it’s ten sections long, practically a chapbook. It would be my most substantial publication to date, at least in volume. It’s also an interesting place for me to publish, for the same reasons Amy mentioned here.
Most of the poem tells the story of what Jehovah’s Witnesses called a “quick-build Kingdom Hall,” a project where hundreds of volunteers would get together and build, from the ground up, a church that would be about 95% complete in 96 hours. (They used to do them in 48, but there were too many accidents and aggravated neighbors.) And most of the poem comes from the point of view of the believer, which is why I sent it to Relief–it’s a poem that didn’t get any traction with traditional journals.
But this is the surprising thing. They took it even though it has this poem as the closing section.
That house may stand a hundred years,
may outlive me for all I know.
We built it strong enough to stand
the Devil’s breath.
I don’t believe the Devil breathes,
don’t count on paradise, don’t live
for future possibility,
don’t think that I will be revived
to walk with elephants and lions.
Paul said that when I was a child,
I spake as one, and thought as one.
Who knew that I’d consider my
disruption from the faith as my
commencement, graduation to
a fuller life. I’m proud of that
building, although I’ll never go
through its doors again. At times
I catch myself whistling the psalms
we sang: This house we built for you
Oh Lord, this house we built for you.
In the end, the poem is about a person who has lost his faith, but who can’t quite bring himself to hate what he once believed, even though his move away from faith cost him dearly. That a Christian journal would publish voices who openly question belief is an odd idea, but it’s one I hope persists.
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