Sunday Morning

sit still!
how could I have sat still
when all the colours of the rainbow
quite unexpectedly began to
wiggle through the church?

good grief….my foot…
don’t build churches then
with stained-glass windows

my eyes moved
from elder jansen’s green head
to mrs. tjaarda’s blue face,
from mrs. jonker’s yellow hat
to mr. houweling's red beard.

as a good little protestant
i had pretended to listen
to the flow of weighty orthodoxy
which like the mixed odor
of eau-de-cologne and peppermints
wafted from pew to pew
in a never-ending stream
of three or four-syllable words.

but when the sun at intervals
peeked through dark dutch clouds
i shifted constantly
craning my neck
to miss nothing of the covenant colours
which the nodding elders
the pulpit-pounding dominee
the staring parishoners
didn't seem to notice.

until my mother pinched my arm
oh, so gently
(not at all like she pinched me
within the safe walls of our home)
and obediently i settled down
looking in the right direction
as a good little calvinist
seeing one colour only
on the balding head
of the preacher

this too
shapes religion
i think


I was eighteen when, on Easter Day,
I confessed my faith in God the Father,
in Jesus, His only begotten Son, and
in the Holy Spirit, who proceeded
from the Father and the Son.

I wanted my 'yes' to be so distinct,
that my Dad and Mom could hear it too.
Instead I just nodded my head,
for I remembered...

Good Friday morning.
I climbed the spiralling stairs
to the organ loft above the pulpit.
Young and inexperienced,
I needed to practice
for the evening service.
I thought my prelude should be
"O Sacred Head Now Wounded",
but the possibilities
of that mournful melody eluded me.

A bleak morning sun
threw flecks of diffused colour
on the richly carved organ front.
A cross appeared above the keyboards,
the shadow of the crossed timbers
in the stained-glass windows.

My eyes fastened on that cross,
and suddenly I saw the body of Jesus
writhing in agonizing grief.
His pain-narrowed eyes looked down
on the black and white keys,
then centered on me.

Looking up to the cross,
My fingers began to wander
aimlessly over the keys, until
a shuddering wave of grief
signalled a single melody
from heart to hands.
When it returned from its journey
along the vaulted ceiling
I added a counter-tune
and suddenly, outside my own will,
the organ seemed to sing by itself,
only using my hands and feet
as necessary tools.

The sun hid behind dark clouds.
The cross disappeared...
But Jesus did not.
I sensed His Presence behind me,
but I did not dare to look.

Through my tears I scanned the stops,
pulled out the trumpet, Mixture I and II,
and the organ swelled with my longing:
"Oh, make me thine forever,
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee."


birds are endlessly busy
in their unlimited sky
theirs is a bit of the Kingdom
no limits
no subdivisions
no wind strong enough
to catch their wings
in a downward spiral
their beaks won't split
on the rocks of the earth

they trip
but not each other
unlike squiirrels
who chase each other
up and down a tree
unlike people
who push and shove
they always leave
enough room
for each other

you just wonder
whether they too know
that not a wing or feather
will fall from their bodies
without the will
of their Father.


I cannot pray, my Lord, I cannot pray...
I locked the door to you and
cannot find the key to open it.

Since childhood
-- now I lay myself to sleep --
you always heard,
but now You seem to rest
and slumber deep.

I know, my Lord, it isn't so!
You're always there, cupping Your ear
with nailtorn hand, resting the other
on your Father's arm, waiting...waiting

My prison has a door
which only locks
from the inside,
yet, I cannot escape.

My prison has a window,
a cross-barred, grimy window,
when night is gone,
my tumbling thoughts are gone,
I pull myself up on the bars
and look through the cross
longing for the dawn of grace.

I know that soon You will whisper:
My son, my son...long ago,
one day, long ago,
I saw you put your key
on the ledge of that cross...
did you forget?



last night
who pops up in my head?
slender little johan
i wish
we had grown up together

twelve years old he was
already indoctrinated
by nuns and i
twelve year old calvinist
first year catechumen
could do little
to show him a thing or two

we were friends
because our parents
visited back and forth
between the backs of our homes
an ecumenical gate
latch on either side
theirs a bit more rusty
alter all, they belong
to the oldest church

christmas high mass
five o'clock in the morning
brrr...those catholics must be crazy
said my mother
as she wound my dad's scarf
three times around my neck

five in the morning
breathe clouds in the glow
of yellow street lanterns
dwarfs on wooden shoes
preserving snow clods
we stood head to head
to see who was the tallest

rushing through the last street
johan made it just in time
to be properly robed
for he sang in the choir

to my surprise
fellow protestants packed
the narthex of the cathedral
they left little space
for real parishioners to get through
they muttered under their breath
as they dipped one hand
in a rather grimy bowl

it was that morning
that the for the fist time
music brought tears to my eyes
one single boy's soprano
from heaven high i now descend
eya eya

walking home i told johan
how find that boy had sung
that was me
he said

hands in pockets
we talked religion a bit
and to my surprise i discovered
that he loved
the same jesus
i love
we found a stone
and between the two of us
kicked it all the way home



The road between
Orangeville and Listowel
stretched ahead of me,
A fine drizzle obscured
the ploughed fields
on either side of the road.
Miserable, unendurable,
downright nasty weather,
at the memory
of sun-drenched fields,
a morning sun shimmering
through silver leaves
of birch trees beside a
happy Ontario lake.
My car radio wasn't
in a happy mood either.
Snatches of CBC Toronto
hesitated to cross
the bitumen of the glistening
endless road I traveled.
The music was Wagner,
heavy, foreboding Wagner.
An alto voice floating on an
immense orchestra, bewailing
the misery of the world.
A penny for my thoughts!
She's seen nothing yet!
Such external signals of
misery, played havoc with
the internal mass of soft
undulating greyish matter
underneath my skull.
I thought of Dad,
eighty-five, stroke,
nursing home, unable to
I worried about our mortgage
about to be renewed, mumbled
a few unkind words, in the
general direction of Ottawa.
I though about .....
Then it happened!
The sky, the sky, the sky
bled open!
Ahead of me ... lo and behold,

Palmerston in dazzling sunlight!
As if on cue,
the radio program changed.
A Vienna waltz suddenly
one - two - threed through
my van, and I felt like
waltzing it over the road
using the centreline
as guide.
As a law-abiding citizen
you just don't do a
thing like that
of course.
I grinned,
I laughed aloud.
Nobody sees you anyway,
on the road
Orangeville and Listowel
Imagine what the eternal sun
of God's grace
can do to our lives.  

Prose by
Herman de Jong

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