Anatomy of Yes: A Poem, with Questions to Ponder

By Alexander Levering Kern.

While we will surely remember this April as the trying time of Coronavirus/COVID-19, for three of the world’s great faiths this is also a deeply holy season, made somehow more precious by the sense of suffering and struggle that we share. As Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities observe Passover, Easter, and Ramadan this month, I would like to share an interfaith poem as a way of greeting, blessing, and offering hope.

I composed this poem years ago while serving as the Protestant Christian chaplain at Brandeis University before joining Northeastern as the first executive director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service. At the time I was co-parenting an infant (our son Elias, now an entering Northeastern student) and co-directing a summer program where interfaith participants discovered profound commonalities in language, culture, faith, and life. 

This poem is the fifth in a series I am sharing on my own Facebook page called “A Poem for Today: Lifting Spirits in Times of Trouble,” and was first published in the journal Poetica. Each poem is followed by Questions to Ponder, and a reminder that poems are best consumed with a few deep, mindful, cleansing breaths.

Anatomy of Yes

Yes:

Three intimate letters like dinner shared

with mama, baby, and me

Yes

says the quaking aspen waving

by the island meadow at dusk

Yes, yes 

my Muslim brother, my Jewish sister:

two scripts, one common tongue

Yes, honey baby,

everything truly is alright

not will be… not sometime… but now!

Yes, yes

Y   yes… E   yes,

and yes, especially  S:

Yahweh, Elohim, Shekinah

burning in the Shabbat candle, 

light as rain

speaking light into life

in nothing less

than the infinite

How beautiful the beloved answering

the body of night

with a lullaby: Yes

your lips the sole song

on which all things depend.


Questions to Ponder:

Are you finding connections across faiths and cultures in this time of Coronavirus/COVID-19?

What is speaking “light into life” for you? Where have you glimpsed “the infinite”?

How might you find sabbath rest and belovedness, if even for a moment?

What beautiful song might your life sing?

Note: YahwehElohim, and Shekinah refer to the divine.

Alexander Levering Kern is Executive Director of the Northeastern University Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service.

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