Eastern OrthodoxPoetry

By the Waters of Babylon

The waters of Babylon drip from hanging gardens where
All that is beautiful in the world grows down from Heaven
The headwaters of the garden river from which life flowed

And we sit beside them inspired to refrain from singing
Hanging our harps like ripened tears on the weeping trees
And cry out for the war-ravaged fatherland we so love

We stroke the sweeping willow branches with a rustle
Sounding like the spirit of God flowing from his right hand
And the tears of God mingle with our own and drop

There is nothing left for us back home except our own God
Who planted us by this river jail, and our jailers
Demand we sing his joyful praises for them in this place

We answer with a wave toward the river and say not sing:
The voice of God upon the waters, the God of glory thunders
Upon many waters, he will bless his people with peace

And he does and we begin to sing a new and different song
The kind that is always sung in river deltas by God’s people
Songs as blue as the waters and as deep as Zion’s height

How can we sing O Lord,
And how can we now sing (O Lordy)
The songs that we had sung
Back in Ol’ Jerusalem (O Lord)
If we ever forget O Lord,
And if we ever forget (O Lordy)
My playing hand and tongue
Will lose all the skill in them (O Lord)

They ask us to rebuild Jerusalem in their darkened minds
With the same stones they pulled one from another that day
When they shouted and sang with one voice, tear it down

And so blessed are those, blessed with the Lord’s own peace
Those who take up those stones and build them up a cairn
Where they can weep rivers beside their dripping dead babies

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

A Northerner by upbringing, Kenneth has lived in the South since his (first) college days. After returning to college, he began to do more than just dabble with writing, and has self-published a children's picture book, a middle-reader's book, and several collections of poetry. Baptized in the Roman Catholic church, raised in the fundamentalist Baptist church, and having spent time in the Reformed Baptist church, Kenneth settled down in the Eastern Orthodox church in 2006.

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