[K:NWTS 20/2 (Sep 2005) 23-25]
From here he made me see
above my head poverty
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
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-mitigatednot 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.