Lamentations’ call to arms

A poem inspired by the book of Lamentations (especially chapter three)

by Ken Sehested

Turn off (what passes for) the news.
Boycott the season’s electoral charades.
Don’t give in to Pokémon’s promise of
“augmented reality.” Attend instead to
unmitigated reality: bloodied, stricken
and strewn. Offer grief the hearing it
demands, the voice it obliges, and
the risk it assumes.

When not even Wendell Berry’s “peace
of wild things” will suffice—the wilderness
itself being salted and assaulted—turn to
the Lamentator’s naked confession for
uttering the heart’s howling confusion
amid terror’s ambush.

We have been driven into truth’s eclipse
by deceitful scripts. Besieged, every
bartering prayer is Heaven-shunned,
and treachery stalks, beastly threat
lying in wait. We, of self-anointing
greatness, are become laughingstock
of nations. For food, only gravel is given;
for bedding, only ashes.

The demands of frivolous piety insist on
consolation stripped of lamentation,
morning’s joy absent night’s sorrow,
penitential grace shorn of reparative
labor. We are exceptional only in
desecration and moonshine swagger.

Worst of all, we hardly know it,
veneered as we are in virtuous pretense
and affected innocence, the result of
expanding security obsession. As
if Heaven is deaf and dumb to earth’s
offense against creation’s purpose.

Are we thereby left to decompose in
the squalor of our own making?

No, comes a Voice from the wasteland,
for the Beloved is not yet done with
dust-conspired creatures and is not

angry beyond measure. And, in fact,
there are more than enough lovely
stories to be celebrated—heroic and
commonplace alike—of generosity
and justice, of goodness and mercy.
Let these be redeemed from memory’s
suppression to utter quiet light
in this loudmouthed era.

But the Way forward begins with
truth telling borne by sorrow’s tears
and mourning’s elegy. The grief to
be spoken shall only begrudge the
heart’s malcontent and its vainglory
habits. The penitent journey, the Way
of the cross, leads home, only to home.

Lament’s despondence spirals not in
despair, nor shame, nor derision, nor
humiliation. Lamentation is a call to
arms, arms freed from bloody
consignment, arms open to Mercy’s
advance and earth’s relief.

Ye who are weary, come home.

©ken sehested @