Home > Collected Poems > Poems That Search and Poems That Question
Poems That Search and Poems That Question
by Alan Harris
1982
Dedication
To all who search and question:
may they find and know.




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Contents

(Click on any divider between poems to return here.)

Continuity
Divine Priorities
God's Spirit Dwells
Hope and Love
I, Not It
Mary and the Moderns
My Soul Is Something
The Only Christian
The Other Door
Symposium
These Scales Tell Tales
Three Gingerbread Men
To Sister Marjorie
To a Telephone Pole
To Rolla Swanson
The Tortured Joy
Two Songs
What the Pencil Says

The Other Door

To take a perfect bolt
and start the nut awry
and twist it with a jolt
is like a lie.

To grab a kiss or touch
without her matching mood
won't gratify as much
as tasteless food.

To batter down a door
whose fault is being locked
won't satisfy us more
than having knocked.

For every door locked tight
a second unlocked door
will open with no fight
and please us more.

The one who knocks and waits,
then seeks an unlocked way,
transcends life's petty hates
and learns to pray.

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To Rolla Swanson

Our charming corner church
fills and drains each week
like a religious rain barrel,
housing harmonious humans
an hour or two,
who then flow out into
the rivers and gutters of living,
bouncing and banking,
filing to the fullness
of the sky-sucked sea
for relief, and relife.

Numb need flows along
these sine-wave streams.
The men need the
women need the
children need the
future.

This needful flow of living
winds through a riverbed of love,
which was and will be,
with wax and wane,
as long and long
as water will be wet.

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What the Pencil Says

A dull red pencil,
lowly servant,
spreads lead
onto a scrappable page.
Spirit writes through low clay
to spread high hope.

The pencil says:

An era of peace,
now within the reach of human minds,
is a magnificent certainty
which will receive us
as an angel receives a departed saint.

The world will be true unity--
No nations, no empires, no strife.
God will rule and humans will work,
and praise, and create, and sometimes die.
War will be a historical word.


May we hear the pencil
which announces these blessings,
and in our hearts
may God's will prevail.

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Continuity

Yesterday the sun went down;
this morning it came up--

as it has,
as it will.

A nagging question plagues philosophers:
why does the sun rise in the East at dawn
instead of rising in the West at eve?
They meant to solve this problem yesterday;
they met with failure once again today--

as they have,
as they will.

While one wise solver contemplates,
twelve folks toil to fill their plates.
Some produce, some sell their wares;
all seek exit from their cares--
one of which is not the sun
(save that their day's work is done).
West or East or Dawn or Eve
to philosophers they leave--

as they have,
as they will.

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Divine Priorities

Why build the Church cathedrals?
Just pile up grains of sand
if you've a mind to do some thing
to occupy your hand.

Why dress up for the service?
Why serve the holy stuff
in gold and silver chalices?
An old tin cup's enough.

If quality's in rareness,
as silver's hard to find,
how great then must be humble folks
who've cleared doubt from their mind.

If every brick in every church
were mortared end to end,
that row would never leave the earth,
but we could still pretend.

If God wants us to dress up,
let's save fine clothes until
the day we give this place up,
then in them lie quite still.

But if God does want cathedrals,
let's hurry and get more made.
Let's build them fine, but keep in mind
the inner ones, homemade.

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Symposium

I sing a song of joyous life,
Tra-lee, tra-la, tra-lee;
I dance about my dainty wife
and tip a glassful of glee.



I tell a tale of mine olden age,
and there, and so, and thus;
life's wisdom is my single wage,
and I can't see who's driving the bus.

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Three Gingerbread Men

Three gingerbread men had a talk
in which they searched each other's souls.
The first one stated frankly that he had no soul,
the second that his soul was pure goat's milk.
The third gingerbread man had no bones to pick
nor any goats to milk. He said his soul
was pure gingerbread.
The others laughed and ate him up.

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Two Songs

Song of Doubting Logic

What an incongruity
that in this flesh a soul can be!



Song of Spiritual Revelation

What an incongruity
that in this flesh a soul can be!

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The Only Christian

He went to church one cloudy morn,
somewhat forlorn.
He was the first one there, he guessed,
and sat to rest.
He studied all the stained-glass art;
soon church would start.
The clock swung round to half past eight--
the folks were late.
No organist was there to play,
no preacher to pray;
no choir stirred the air with song--
what could be wrong?
Twelve worn-out candles stood unlit
(this wasn't fit),
and Bibles, hymnals, all were closed
in silent rows.
A full half-hour he waited there,
then said a prayer.
He prayed that God would gird his heart
to do his part
and asked forgiveness for us all--
then felt his call.
He took his Bible from his pew,
for now he knew
the only Christian left was he;
he held God's key.
His work now would be hard and long,
but he'd be strong.
He prayed that Christ would live again
in hearts of men,
then opened wide the large front door
and stayed no more.
He stepped outside without remorse;
he knew his course.
The door through which crowds once had flocked
he left unlocked.
Then, "Wait!" he spoke out with a start,
"I'm not so smart."
Today, to his profound dismay,
was Saturday.

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The Tortured Joy

The company had sent its pamphlets on
ahead, so everyone in town knew of
that spring's event. The drift in barber shops
and telephones foretold a green success.

That night a grandstandful looked on as marching
marchers marched in song onto the field.
Speculators in the stands kept up
a wide-eyed buzz, out-answering each other.

"My God, look what they're doing now, Ethel!
They're going to raise the cross that man brought in.
It must have been about like this last year--
I hope he has the same amount of luck."

They nailed him to the cross, each hammer-stroke
inviting groans and shrieks from lookers-on.
The band was playing the national anthem,
keeping time with the pound--pound--pound.

At his last words (picked up by microphones)
each person fell down on his knees and bowed
his head--but most eyes peeked to see the rest.
Crews dimmed, then doused the floodlights--all was still.

They let him down and locked him in a room
behind the grandstand for a mournful hour.
Then Jove (the stadium's janitor) unlocked
the door to get a broom--and let him out.

Darkness enabled him to cross the field
and shinny up the cross, but now, instead
of hanging by his nails, he stood with one
foot on each side of the crossbar, arms raised.

They switched the floodlights on and aimed some searchlights
deep into the spangled sky; the band
broke into stirring patriotic tunes,
and the crowd let forth a cheer of tortured joy.

The marching marchers marched back whence they came
and everyone filed out, remarking how
it was the best they'd ever seen or how
they thought it might have been improved.

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My Soul Is Something

My soul is something like a train,
switching, speeding, crawling, switching back.
It backs up sometimes to remind itself of forwardness.

My soul is something like a prism,
bending God's light in a billion-colored spectral show.
Choose your color and live with me in a rainbow.

My soul is something like a bucket,
collecting fluidities of thought,
holding the heavier, splashing out the light.

My soul is something like nothing,
appears invisible, absent, no-where,
but these thoughts form in its shadow, now-here.

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God's Spirit Dwells

God's spirit dwells
in private hells
where broken dreams
cause curdling screams.

Our souls God lifts,
and of His gifts
the most obscure
cause cleanest cure.

We rant, we rave
for God to save,
but God saves all
who prostrate fall.

Away by Christ
our sins were sliced;
now His great reign
rids Death's domain.

Dear God, we pray
that all we say
and all we pen
be Thine. Amen.

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To a Telephone Pole

You, sir, with triangular brace,
have more common sense than the whole human race.

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Excuse Me, God

Excuse me, God,
I didn't see you there.
To my nearsighted eyes
you looked like air.

You cleared your throat
with jarring thunderbolt,
but I heard nothing deep,
just felt a jolt.

I built my house
with quite a clever plan,
but didn't see the sign
that said, "God's land."

I walked through woods
and thought the cool smell
was only natural,
from trees that fell.

I thought it quaint,
the orange western stain;
I thought it nice that clouds
wrung out their rain.

I saw the stars
through shallow telescope,
and saw eternity
as just a hope.

I meant no harm--
I had my glasses off;
so next time, if I'm near,
please cough.

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I, Not It

"It makes me sad, or mad, or glad,"
says my friend Marge.
"This It is all in life I've had,
and It's quite large.

"My It brings in my every mood
and guides my thoughts.
It even guides my choice of food,
makes shoulds and oughts.

"This It is pulling all of me
down toward the ground
with unrelenting gravity
as if I'm bound."

Then one tells Marge to take the "t"
away from "It"--
that Christ expired on the "t"
to make us fit.

When all that's left of "It" is "I,"
there's no excuse
to blame an "It" or question why
you get abuse.

The "I" is God as much as you
and is pristine.
Your freedom all to God is due,
serene, unseen.

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These Scales Tell Tales

These scales tell tales of gravity
against our mortal frames.
They weigh who choose to step on them
and have no use for names.

But let us weigh the scales themselves
against more subtle things.
Is heavier or lighter weight
the chief divide life brings?

Do souls have weight? Do angels fall?
Will goodness tip the scales
a little more than ill repute?
Just here gravity fails.

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Hope and Love

As the earth spins into day and night,
so the human soul basks in light
and quivers in darkness.
And as the earth sometimes has foul weather,
the soul too has it hurricanes and rains.

Hope and love are, were, will be.
Hope is God's eternal nudge in our ribs.
Something is ahead
and, knowing not its shape,
we push toward it nonetheless.
Hope pulls us.

Love is everywhere, and always has been.
Love existed before we came to join it.
Love made us.
Love makes us make more of us.
Love is God's radiant comfort in our souls.
Love binds us.

With hope to pull and love to bind,
we need not fear.

When all is seemingly lost,
when it is nighttime in the soul,
when there is wind and rain,
there are yet two forces to sustain us.

Hope.
Love.

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To Sister Marjorie

For this may God be praised:
our Christ was raised,
the temple is secure,
we shall endure.

The fellow with the tail
can make us fail,
can give us loneliness,
grief, shame, and stress.

There will be sobs and tears
and barren years
and prayers that won't take wing
and stares that sting.

The Father sees it all
and hears our call.
He sees our sorest needs,
our hunger feeds.

Since food and clothes are sure,
since love is pure,
since prayers are always heard,
trust in the Word.

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Mary and the Moderns

Her name was Mary
and she was regional and regal,
and Gabriel whispered to her, beautifully--
swift Gabriel, God's holy messenger.

Reconvening Congressmen
besiege each other with
how are each other, fine.

And hearing the prophecy of Jesus,
she began to prepare her heart and mind
and immaculate body for holy duty.

Oklahoma will do, said one.
Where will the rest of you be?

Rounding her hips toward God
she was able to receive and conceive
in a glorious burst of almighty love
from above.

Catch any fish? Well, not
very many big ones. We just
missed the heavy season.

She murmured hymns thoughtfully
to herself during the growing
of all that was in her.

Around by the back fence--
you know how my yard's
laid out. Well, I dug up
a little patch there for
Myrna's flowers this spring.

She prayed calmly during the warm
weather in her country that bade noise
and fear to cease.

Truly, friends, the Lord shall
forgive you if in deepest awe and
reverence you approach his
holy throne and enter this house
of worship and give generously
of your possessions.

And by the time the welling was large
enough to attract innocuous attention
and friendly suspicion, she was in love
with her own womb and what it contained,
so that no calumny could burden her
conscience and no suspicion her calmness.

Found this little place
back off the highway where
the truckers all eat.
Really a sharp little place.

The sun shone upon her and the son
grew within her and she was with pun
without laughter with joy without pride.

Jenny will be a senior
next year if she ever gets
going on her algebra. You
know, she just cannot grasp
mathematics--it must be
her weak spot or something.

She bore an infinite rebel from her
own bone cage and sent him into the
torn world to mend and heal it
before it should devour itself
in greed and fear and sloth.

When speaking in public, one
should never consciously or
unconsciously alienate
the listeners, or one will not
succeed in communicating
one's message to them.

And respect for him was not there,
but since he was truly a vibrating
human with a divine mission,
he asserted and healed and
gently brought stones down
upon him which had been reserved for
such a rebel and agitator, and he
died with a brilliant aura about him
and without tears and with love.

It is my firm opinion
that our city government
cannot long survive without
an increase in the sales
tax percentage, and the time
to act is now, without delay.

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