The Homeless: Psalm 85:10

The shape of something uncaring and
perversely cold stands up inside a man
and he finds himself completely deceived.
Believing this world’s anguish is something
different from the love he keeps holding back. 

There Is a story about a wealthy man who
gathered beggars from throughout the city
and took them all home. Thinking he would
feed them, they smiled and shined
like newly opened daisies praising the sun.

But the wealthy man did not feed them.
He grouped them closely together then
recorded the sound of their stomachs’ loud rumbling.
He needed this sound he said to add a dramatic touch
to a waltz, a masterpiece, he was composing
for a special ceremony. Afterwards, he paid
each of the grumbling stomachs ten cents each
then took them back to where their sadness
and hunger lived. Later that night,
the wealthy man was dreaming about angels
when he felt someone cut off both his feet.

He woke up screaming just as a huge woman with a
huge knife grabbed his hands and chopped those too.
The woman cried and apologized but said she needed
his limbs to add realism to a special sculpture
she was creating for a special event. She gave him
a silver dollar for each hand and foot
then squeezed her bulk back out the window. 

The shape of something uncaring and
perversely cold stands up inside a man
and he finds himself completely deceived.
This world’s anguish is no different
from the love we insist on holding back.

The image titled ‘The Homeless, Psalm 85:10,’ featured on the cover of ELEMENTAL can evoke multiple levels of response. They may include the spiritual in the form of a studied meditation upon the multidimensional qualities of the painting itself; or an extended contemplation of the scripture in the title, which in the King James Bible reads as follows: ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’  The painting can also inspire a physical response in the form of tears as it calls to mind its more earth-bound aspects; namely, the very serious plight of those who truly are homeless in this world, whether born into such a condition, or forced into it by poverty or war.  

It was the rich embodiment of these layers of physical, emotional, and spiritual representation that enabled me initially as a writer to transcribe my experience of Luther’s images into a corresponding form of poetry. Rather than attempting to force my own literary voice upon any interpretation of the works, I sought to hear and understand the voice already speaking through them. In that way, the poems seemed to reveal themselves to me in much the way that Luther sometimes described paintings revealing themselves to him. I considered the activity of transcribing Luther’s visual art into poetry during the early 1990s as a unique experience of grace that was somehow profoundly sacred. What I had no way of anticipating at the time was that a day would come when our rolls would reverse to some degree and the painter would produce images inspired by the poet.

After the passing of my mother, Mrs. WillieMae Griffin Lloyd, in February 2006, I found myself for the rest of that year writing a series of poems called Songs of the Angelic Gaze. I had not made any conscious plans to write such a series and the poems often seemed to arrive like actual angelic visitations. I shared these with Luther as well as the rest of the world through my various websites. At the same time that one angel poem after another entered my life, I finished writing the novel Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World.  I also collected the angel poems into a book called The Bridge of Silver Wings. When the time came to publish both the novel and the poetry, I realized that I would need exceptional cover art for both.

I was extremely reluctant to ask Luther if he just happened to have an image or two that I might employ as cover art because I knew he was preparing for major exhibits of his own work at the Jepson Center for the Arts and other museums. Therefore, it came as a big surprise when he said he had already started working on visual expressions of the angel poems. It came as an even greater surprise when he first presented me, without having actually read it, with the exact art needed for the novel; then a little later with the perfect image complement for the poetry collection. We recognized that our partnership in creativity had, as the saying goes, come full circle. It had started almost two decades before with Luther’s show at the Beach Institute when the paintings I encountered there inspired me to compose a body of poetry specific to their colors, forms, and subtle philosophical statements. Now it continued with the visual artist’s interpretation of the poet’s angelic visions.

Moreover, it became clear that positive creativity begets positive creativity because after producing the cover images for my books, Luther presented me with one angel image for which I had not already written a poem but did so specifically for ELEMENTAL just as we were preparing to go to press. The image is a vertical one called ‘Angel of Better Days to Come.’ The different perspectives from which this painting can be viewed offer intriguing interpretative possibilities. One set of meanings is revealed when viewed vertically while another may be considered when viewed horizontally.

With the closing of the first circle, or cycle, another had already started. An appropriate symbolic representation of this adventure in spiritual creativity – – or creative spirituality, depending again on the angle from which one chooses to view it – – might be that of the symbol for infinity, which looks like the number 8 placed on its side. What could make this symbol appropriate would be two things. One is the endless array of possibilities available to us for artistic expression during whatever amount of time we spend on this planet. The other is what Luther indicated in his statement at the beginning of ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love, and that is ‘the hearts and minds of those who give this book their attention’ That means for the generations alive at this moment and for those to come, these pages represent an opportunity to discover, explore, and claim as their very own, a small miracle wrapped in the glittering wonders of art and poetry.    

by Aberjhani
from ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love