[LENT]: empty space

March 18, 2011


Lent is much about the empty space, the simplicity of time, heart, body. It is about shedding the layers of winter and stretching again, extending my hands to the furthest reach, to see just how much there is around me. It is about breathing. The fast is the ability to say no, to experiment in restraint, and to exercise the muscles of discipline. All of this points to our humanity, our limitations, our need for something else, something greater.

The created emptiness leaves room to profoundly question. There are so many worldwide groanings to pay attention to. There is future and past to grapple with. There is body to move and spirit to breathe. What is prayer? I am quite not sure. But this heart of mine is open.


I have spent the last week moving over many ideas and materials, sketching and being inspired by many. This much I know – watercolor and graphite on paper. The delicacy of materials matches the fragility of life that I am thinking of, and my own mortality and humanity. Drawing with these materials is sure to show the artist’s hand, and to show the immediacy of the season. Watercolor paper offers a beautiful rough texture to be left empty. And now it is with hope I can stumble upon what it is that needs to fill the space…


We Take the Sky

We take the sky, as if red is something we could own,
something we might find in the stillest moments,
as if the earth is humane and wouldn’t break
our bones. (None of His were broken. Not one.)

Red is in the land too, is in the way we look at each other, the hardness
of our sleep, the need to fall down, to tell of the pox that swept Aunt Jess,
the drink that ushers Father, the path that never leads to wealth or rest
or health—but the one we always take. Shalom, we say. Buena Suerte.

We always take the sky, fold it over ourselves,
the soil, run it across our skin and cling to it,
savoring the tart of a lemon, palming a bar of soap
even when our hands are clean, naming the insects

that fly across the white bulb of moon late at night,
rakishly loving the one who knows our smell,
saying (as if they are not questions), Isn’t this how
we stay alive
and Why shouldn’t I burrow here.

This is how we drum on, cold and ungrowing—
what more to be than alive? It all hums: so we die in small bits,
so the egg-shaped hollow that sits behind our stomachs,
so He died and rose again on the third day, so (what).

We take the sky, we scatter on the land. We fall down,
grab the everythings, the tiniest cures, fall down again,
wash ourselves in red and know, unwittingly, it is not enough.
More certain than anything: it will never be,

and then here, in the stillest moments, the story rushes again
(veil splitting, stone rolling, Mary, Peter, John, running,
linen and spices like a limp cocoon, the blur of angels, the one red
splash of a second—like a rose breaking open—when we know),

and somewhere inside us a small green seed pricks the dirt,
coiling for air. He soothes and stirs, fingertip-sized holes in His
hands, roaming the soil and the sky for our broken bones.
And the shaking on earth is our brand new lives:

Alleluia, we say, feeling even the empty oval of our stomachs rise.

Copyright ©2005 by Susanna Childress


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