Bill Griffin, “Of Sorrows and Acquainted With”

BILL GRIFFIN
OF SORROWS AND ACQUAINTED WITH

First Day
Forgive me, Father, for I
struggle. Did you have to make self
the first syllable of selflessness?
But truthfully, what soul
borne in bone and blood would welcome
this grinding? This heaviness? Like hell
they know not what they do. Even the stones
cry out for my surrender. Why?

Yesterday I walked through the garden
with my friends. They laughed.
Have you heard the one about the soldier,
the rabbi, and the carpenter?
Anyone who’s not depressed
just doesn’t really know what’s going on.
Why resist? There is an hour at the end
of night when the eastern fields turn grey and yet
it is still possible to imagine
this morning there will be no sun.

I prayed for you to take it from me,
this cup. I still don’t know
if I can drink.

Second Day
The voices are almost quiet here.
Like sleep, but without the need
to awaken. An old man who can’t summon up
an image of the hour he’s just spent, is he
a captive of his past or freed
to live in the moment? And a young man
who can’t imagine his next hour?

The voices are almost quiet here.
I add my own voice to that thrum,
a single indeterminate bee
in a distant honey tree. Oneness.
Distance. Warm, golden, sweet,
and who can remember the stings?
Have you abandoned me
or is emptiness my fulness?

The voices are almost quiet here.
How is it done? Are stones and darkness
enough to shut them out? When a man denies
the need for food because he desires
never again to feel hunger, when he breaks
the knife because it has cut him,
when he closes his eyes
because he fears darkness, then

the voices are almost quiet. Here
there is no need to discover
my voice. Oneness, or nothingness?
A mother draws her newborn son
to her breast, her own blood still warm
on his face. The pain, she doesn’t forget it,
but her heart is all thanks. The voices
are almost quiet here. But only almost.

Third Day
What door opens
when it’s closed?
The man with no arms
catches the bird.
Does the barrow dream it rolls
itself uphill?
Escape
frees no one.

My friends don’t know me
until I know them. They can’t
call my name until I call theirs.
Today we will eat together and be full;
tomorrow we’ll be hungry again.

Some say you created hunger so that we
might appreciate bread,
but even the fat man likes to eat,
and no want of bread ever drew
a dead man from his tomb.
There is no point to hunger.
No point at all except that we
must all be hungry together.

On the leafless branch,
a ripe fig.
Who gives it all away
becomes rich.
Cry, mouth. Drink, throat.
Reach, arms.

In the end, it is not my power
to roll this rock away. My friends
won’t know me until they know I
know them. None of them ask,
Three days? What took you so long?
Their blood is warm on my face. They
draw me to their breast.

Bless me, Father, for I
will struggle, and my heart is all pain
and all thanks.

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5 thoughts on “Bill Griffin, “Of Sorrows and Acquainted With”

  1. This poem started with the one line “Three days? What took you so long?” which I read in an interview in THE SUN about a year ago. Over the years I’ve come to accept that faith does not equal certainty but rather the ability to accept and embrace doubt.

  2. Bill, sorry you beat me to a comment. If I were more patient I would have not known you’d complimented me on “Time Once.” I can feel you in this poem. I hate it that you feel that way — where else would this language have come from? It is a beautiful thing for me to imagine where and when you wrote these lines!

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