Poetry: Canticle on Matthew 6 in Wartime
Canticle on Matthew 6 in Wartime
by Jennifer Atkins
Consider the missing lilies, the trees stripped of leaves and burnt, the grass trampled to dust.
Consider the crows of the air, what they reap, how they savor what others disdain.
Consider the splendor of kings, how they neither toil nor sow, and yet their coffers spill over.
Consider the empty barns and silos, the unplowed fields, the gravelly gnawing of hunger.
Consider tomorrow tomorrow: sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
This poem captures like a photograph the aftermath of a battle. We are given room to recall images we have seen of war-torn landscapes: Belgium during World War I, Poland in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Congo, Bosnia, Iraq, Libya. Farmland meant to provide food instead holds a harvest of bodies. Ordinary citizens starve while rulers scurry off to exile with a nation’s wealth. Because this poem is based on a passage from the gospel of Matthew, however, we are also asked to reflect on how little humanity has changed in the last 2,000 years. We still wage war, and it looks like this. —Kathleen Norris