I was forty-three years in the northern wilderness.
Before those years, I had prayed,
Earnestly prostrated before the Lord,
In another country, another city, I prayed,
(He saved me, He rescued me, He sent me on a path of exile)
I prayed "Lord, put me through what you need me to go through
In order to make me the poet you made me to be."
Was I really a poet and not much else?
I don't know if He has started to answer that prayer,
But my experiences in the wilderness have been different and elemental.
Deep as a scar.
At the same time I fear I may forget,
So other-worldly they were,
Or maybe "third-worldly" a better word.
Remind me, children, how we knew life:
No time for poetry or art,
The next meal,
Firewood cutting and hauling and splitting and stacking,
Clearing the land by hand,
Building the house,
Growing food we ate in a summer of ten weeks,
Scything and raking and racking the hay field by hand
For the goats that made us our milk,
Plundered two times per day,
Winters down as low as minus fifty,
The stove glowing red,
And snow as much as four feet deep
Falling in one night.
Lamp light and batteries,
Digging a well by hand,
And a hand pump at the kitchen sink.
The greenhouse, the outhouse,
Worship and home school,
Prayer every morning at 5:30 am--
I could and should go on and on
lest the images and memories fade away.
We lived like Saint Francis with Lady Poverty
By the work of our hands, (and still today)
From hand made boot to handmade boot,
Hopefully this was all God making me into the poet
I hope to become.
During those years I felt like I toured both Heaven and Hell,
Known exile seared into the ventricals of being,
Known miracle and deliverance and divine provision,
Praise and glory, storms and waves instantly stilled by
The Peace Be Still of desperate faith
When caught out in a canoe on an icy lake
Flooding the deepest knotted fibres of my being.
Heard and seen the angels, awstruck by the nordic
Falling colored curtains of heaven on the coldest nights.
I've put bears and wolves to flight
With prayer and faith and desperate bravado.
I've slept beside a salmon choked river
Where bears were fishing, me--
Wrapped in a sleeping bag and simple nervous prayer.
I've known friends to appear as I sat
Miles from nowhere in Canadian mountain bush
Finding me in the night at a lonely fire.
I've seen death stalk my enemies.
I saw a child run over by a loaded haywagon,
His chest crushed flat
And laughing with the other children
At supper that night.
Strangers have handed me envelopes filled with hundreds
Even thousands of dollars
Unasked, unexpected, but so needed,
So much more, so much more glory,
But who am I?
God made me a poet, gave me leather and boots to make
For my groceries, and what is that
In the reckoning of things?
I spent hours cumulated into years huddled around a fire
Worshipping and praying in thanksgiving for simple
Food shelter and warmth, family and mercy and grace.
My three children know how to survive,
How to take care of themselves and their families
Know God and serve Him whole-heartedly,
My wife a treasure that has enriched all my days.
God told me in a dream: "Go back to the city,
I have work for you to do."
After forty-three years,
He led me from the wilderness just a few weeks ago.
Here I am Lord, sent by you.
charles van gorkom