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

Click here to read the rest of the “Conversations” collection at Three Things Newsletter’s website.

1 Comment

  1. Aaron

    “Whatever broods here, let it speakmy uncreated words in that old tonguethat buckled mountains, pluckedup valleys, and, though knowingevery battering to come, for thiswhole world said only,it is good.”  
    All I can say is woah. This was so powerful.

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