new Mennonite Life logo    Spring 2007     vol. 62 no. 1     Back to Table of Contents

Avowal, and Riffs on the Hymnal Index for Friendship: Poems

by David Wright

David Wright's most recent poetry collection is A Liturgy for Stones (Cascadia, 2003). His poems have appeared in Artful Dodge, Ecotone, The Mars Hill Review, and Poetry East, among others. With composer Jim Clemens, he has also published a new collection of hymns, A Field of Voices ( A past recipient of an Illinois Arts Council fellowship for poetry, he teaches writing and literature at Wheaton College.


“An icon is an open door and not a whitewashed wall”
- Susan Neville, Iconography

Make a vow (one mere and single vow)
and keep it (as though you can grip
a vow to your chest
a vow in your fist
a vow in your teeth)

This prepares you (like a surface
like a saint,
like a hole in the soil)
to cut into the gesso,
paint with ochre and yolk (the tiny brush)
and the iron oxide (blood of Mary)
(tears of Mary)
(blood of Mary)

What prepares you to believe
(the loss of worry)
to step
(the loss of worry)
through the open grief
(full presence of grief)
into a static, a gold-flecked world?

The spirit (and not the letter) suffice.
Vow and settle.
Vow and sit.
Vow and walk
through the figure
who has opened the wood.

Riffs on the Hymnal Index for Friendship

What a friend we have, now wounded,
with grief and shame,

And he walks with me, and this
his dying sorrow,

And talks with me, and tell me
what borrowed tongue,

All our sins and griefs to bear,
gladly the cross;

Freely, freely received—
What is this place?

What a friend now wounded,
we have.

His own bound tie, blessed be,
now wounded,

our kindred hearts,
this pity without end,

this garden alone unlike
to that above,

those friends on earth,
and friends above,

where we join the sacred throng,
whose scars yet visible,

now wounded, to thank thee, bind us together
with cords, oh dearest friend.