Light Affliction

Charles G. Dennison

Greedy winds
assault the recently
ruined world;
the murderous heart
conspires to deprive.

In it all,
       a voice,
             one word setting boundaries;
someone talking of home
where a round-faced boy
clings to a glass wall.

The outside Abel pleads for love
and dead still speaks;
what Cain walks inside
molding his many women for praise,
his children for rule?—
the homeless heart stirs
as a cat
to a cough—
how to be home
when home?
I heard of a land
where a woman and child stand
graced by a mighty king . . .
she wonderfully dressed,
with two times six stars.

"I've slept
with no woman,"
Abel wept,
"but seeing you
I'm satisfied."
Crystal shatters, breaking glass—
the wandering Cain chained in gas
and Abel clothed
with child and bride.


This is the mature form of a poem conceived in 1982, when it is entitled "Speaking though Dead" (this version appears in a letter dated 3/26/82). This original title provides one New Testament commentary on the Old Testament Abel and Cain narrative (Heb. 11:4). From the first breech, the verse gestated through five successive growth spurts until "Light Affliction" was full born 5/26/83. The final title is an allusion to 2 Corinthians 4:17; in fact, the final handwritten version of the poem has the title "For Momentary Light Affliction". But the author crossed out the first two words leaving the present title as it appears in his own printed compilation—"a collection of thirteen poems, 1977-1990" which he labeled Translation. It is the eschatological translation which lies at the heart of each of the thirteen poems.

In the present piece, the reference to the "woman and child" in the last two stanzas is an allusion to the woman and child of Revelation 12 (cf. Charles G. Dennison, "The Resurrection Child." Kerux: A Journal of Biblical-Theological Preaching 14/1 [May 1999]: 9-17). Abel yet speaks, translated by the eschatological child and his bride. Cain appears in noxious vapors—an eternal fugitive bound by his own wandering. The crossover between Abel on the outside looking into Cain's world, longing for home, is itself translated—translated to contentment. Abel remains content with the outside of Cain's world and the inside of the world of the child and the woman. Cain's inside places him vis-a-vis the great chasm—ever outside Abel's eschatological home.