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Forgiveness Cuts Slant: Poems by Sarah Crowley Chestnut & Liz Snell

Three Things Newsletter has curated a collection of poems entitled “Conversations,” composed by various poets in the L’Abri community. It is our pleasure to share two of these poems with you today: “First Last Words” by Sarah Crowley Chestnut and “Words for Morning” by Liz Snell.

First Last Words

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” —Luke 23:42-43

Life was a bone out of joint. I was not the first—I would not be the last— to ride the wreckage of the hell-bent. Each want clawed my belly to shreds— and it ate me.

Maybe any way you cut it, forgiveness cuts slant. Did I just ask for the one thing I’d never had? Riding those rails like a reckoning, I cannot say what strange jewel unearthed itself: some clue to refute the thousand proofs I was damned before my life began.

So I bled in earnest.

And I tell you, his words burned like a brand, and life was something I wanted, could have, but could not have guessed. I tell you, when they swung clubs to break my bones the end of the end was already gone and I split—as if on reflex—into a shock of a smile.

And it laid with me. And it carried me the first of countless, uncharted miles.

—Sarah Crowley Chestnut

Words for Morning

Before the dawn’s delivery the mourning dove’s low note swings beneath a waterfall of lighter calls. She speaks no meaning, only liturgy of sound.

In that early garden, man was blinking in the light when God said, name the animals. Adam, still alone, thought he could title every beast, not knowing yet the heart’s small creatures too fleet for words.

Now we name the birds by thinking of ourselves and not of any true unhappiness in those grey wings. (How peaceful to repeat a solitary call, leave others to explain.)

I can only name what language has allowed. Language is naming me. Language is finisterre, Earth’s edge, but I have wheeled into a formless sea and waved the disappearing shore.

Whatever broods here, let it speak my uncreated words in that old tongue that buckled mountains, plucked up valleys, and, though knowing every battering to come, for this whole world said only, it is good.

—Liz Snell


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