Life + Culture

The Fire in His Eyes: Seeing the Son in Revelation 1

The Fire in His Eyes

This is the last day — the last hours — of National Poetry Month. The month-long celebration of poetry was inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets.

I love poetry. I like to quote Leland Ryken to the effect that one third of the Bible is written in poetic forms. Poetry has been for me a way of seeing. I see more — it may be dreadful or beautiful — when I try to say what I see with some poetic effort. And I read poetry in the hopes that the poet has succeeded in saying what he or she saw in a way that would open my eyes as well.

I wrote this poem to draw attention to National Poetry Month, on the last day, as a way of saying: Don’t let it stop. And surely the glory of Jesus in the last book of the Bible is a worthy subject for the last day of Poetry Month.

The vision of Jesus in Revelation 1:12–16 has always soared above me. How can I rise to this? How can I feel what John must surely want us to feel? “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” So I thought I would apply some poetic effort to say what he saw in different words. The result was “Seeing the Son of Man: A Meditation on Revelation 1:12–16.”

Seeing the Son of Man

    What greater gift, than that God take
         My mind, my heart, and turn
    Them to the Son of Man, and make
         Me taste and see, and burn
              With holy joy that he
              Would show himself to me.
     
    Clothed with a crimson robe, bound at
         His chest, around his heart
    And lungs, the love-gashed habitat
         Of Life. O Christ, impart
              From ’neath this golden sash
              Breath from your boundless cache.

    His hair a woolen glacier, white
         As snow, vast, ageless, cold,
    In airless, Himalayan height,
         A mystery as old
              As God, this ice defies
              The fire in his eyes.

    But not his feet. Like solid air,
         Translucent bronze, pure heat,
    As from a burning furnace, bare,
         They terrify the street.
              If all beneath is dread,
              Do I not fear his tread?

    His voice, the roar of myriad tons
         Of water, as a wall
    Of crystal crashing like the guns
         On battleships that maul
              The beach, and haunt the day
              A hundred miles away.

    And in his hand, the hand that holds
         The universe, and plies
    Omnipotence, he thus unfolds
         The boundless evening skies,
              And there kindly bestirs
              His cosmic messengers.

    And from his mouth a two-edged sword,
         So sharp it severs light 
    From dark, as if they never warred,
         And pierces, in the fight
              With death, between the bone
              And marrow of a stone.

    And then, at last, he comes to me.
         And as I fall, undone,
    As if to die from joy, I see:
         His face, the blazing sun,
              Before me one sword-length,
              Is shining in full strength.

    
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