[K:NWTS 20/2 (Sep 2005) 23-25]


(Luke 5:17-26)

Charles G. Dennison

From here he made me see

above my head poverty

ingeniously soliciting

the favor

of heaven.

On a certain day we

pressed into that house, all

dampened by the seaside air—

deluge people damaged

by the Fall.

Then out of ceiling-clouds fell graces

while sky-borne spirits danced and played

in light that silhouetted forms

upon our haloed up-turned faces.


Phosphorescent ropes as prayers

lowered the stricken man

on his bed, borne by the

radiating hopes of angels

on the roof.


The voices of the earth were met,

silence-ending glory heard,

when he descended and was set

where God stood

                   forgiving sins.



The following comments are based on notes taken by Kristin Annette Dennison during personal conversations with her uncle in June 1996.

The 'irony' of this poem is the simple, yet illusory, polarity of opposites. In the first stanza for instance, 'heaven' is down, earthly, self-ish; 'poverty' is up, above, other-oriented. The paralytic exists at the interface of the vertical and the horizontal. But for him, the halcyon longing is this-worldly, cure-related, pain-mitigated—not other-worldly, wishful, illusory.

The 'seaside air' refers to Capernaum and environs, leading to a water motif, i.e., the deluge (Noah's flood) generation destined for destruction on account of the Fall. Nevertheless from the reverse arena of their hopes, graces fall from the 'ceiling' turning their faces upwards to the still higher haloed host.

And now the lowering ropes become the reverse image of upward-leading prayers, as if folding the agents 'on the roof' into angelic guise. But the clash of earthly absolutizers ('voices of the earth,' i.e., the Pharisees) is silenced by the heavenly glory embodied in the God-man who 'stood forgiving sins'. And the paralytic went free, healed and forgiven.

Thus the eschatological condescension of God is contained in those brought down to his feet; in that glorious humiliation men, women and children meet the One who forgives sins, reverses all ironies and puts them in possession of heaven itself. In that One is the truly redemptive-historical irony.

James T. Dennison, Jr.