June 3, 2012

"Michael Kierkegaard" by Hannah Olson

Michael Kierkegaard 1756-1838


Consider my case: a man who as a boy
Tending strangers’ sheep on Jutland Heath,
Hungry, lonely, numbed with cold,
Climbed a hummock and railed at God.

Was this the sin against the Holy Ghost,
To stand on a rock and curse the God
So stone-hearted as to afflict
A child already hungered and a-cold?

The memory of it never left me.
When in later life, God had blessed me--
Or cursed me--with riches, men’s esteem, 
And gifted children, demons lashed my soul.

I thought I’d sinned against the Holy Ghost. 
To stop my children drinking my despair,
I laid on them in their tender years
The strictest laws of piety.

Of my seven heirs, two boys lived. The elder 
Drank the black cup, gave up his bishopric. 
The younger--my Benjamin, my best-beloved--
Was also my Isaac, the one I sacrificed.

As his father I believed myself the cause of Søren’s
Melancholy, and Søren my son believed that he
Was the cause of mine. Melancholy men,
We were laconic. Never talked about it.


June 2, 2012

"Søren" by Hannah Olson



I was my father’s Benjamin, his best-loved,
The one he sacrificed.
When he died I made my pilgrimage
To Saeding, Denmark’s poorest hamlet.

I had it in my mind to preach at Saeding Church
The Sunday next. My problem,
How to fill these men in a space so denuded.
My text, the feeding of the multitude.

Here all lies naked and exposed, no place
To hide oneself or hide one’s thoughts.
"Whither can a man flee from thy presence?"
Nowhere on this barren heath.

Outside the kirkyard, I found a tablet, 
Black, inscribed with gilt.
I stood a-stranged like a pawn in check
Where exiles sang remembering Zion.

By the lone larch tree on Jutland Heath
I knew myself as sheer reflection.
By the rivers of Babylon 
I learned to wield the dialectic.