A Poem Built On One Hundred

I've written a poem that's basically a history of our family. Since it's a bit obscure (just for the "in crowd," you understand), I've put notes down at the bottom. Hey, if Eliot did it, so can I.

A Poem Built On One Hundred

For a time the hands have known you,
The titans, the dented nails and bulging knuckles;
From black and gunpowder grainy, supposed to burn out,
They cooled to yours like green and were first

Reborn to the set aside and cherished,
To make for them and follow the vocation
Of father to son or to daughter or bride
One or all of them, the children who wait

For bitterness which was not, but had been;
For gall which would have been if named.
The waiting short, the hope unlooked for,
Our hands look to the hills, but the secret places

Made good gift of bitter hands with hand-
Kneaded breaded and big food for seven more years.
After that the grain and cracked fingers
For a time not the first time, but again

And again perhaps the bitter, the reproach
Like Mary (mother of God), and how soon
Came the song, the humble exalted,
And blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Notes to accompany
A Poem Built On One Hundred
Verse one begins by referring to a poem I had written for Kimberly just before we married, which compared our hands. (And the obscurantism begins.) The verse describes the domestication of hubby, which our married readers will understand in the bones.

Verse two brings my daughter Renata Ecclesia (“Church reborn”) in. She, the daughter or the Church, paves the way for further bearing of fruit. Renata was named during a very hopeful time in our lives. We were sad to be moving away from Moscow, but pleased to be going back to family, and my new job as a pastoral intern at our old church.

Verse three rolls into the next fruit, or what we thought would be the next fruit. Little that we had expected had come to pass for us, we were disappointed and uncertain, and we were expecting our next child. After an ultra-sound our doctor announced that we would have a girl. We decided to name her Mara (also Mary) Esperanda (“bitter” and “hoping/waiting”). This continued the church-timeline theme (which eventually will be Church reborn, bitter waiting/hoping, and something consummative), and fit where we felt we were in life: mournfully enduring, and awaiting resolution/help.

But the bitterness actually “was not.” We looked to God, and out of the secret places came a boy! Our hopes answered, and eventually (pray God) a man, like me. This is verse four.

Verse five speaks of our plans to name our next daughter Mara Esperanda anyway (Kimberly’s convinced we’re having a girl, and she’s done some mid-wifish tests; I’m just waiting). I wanted to consider other names, since “Mara” didn’t seem to fit our current situation in life quite as well, but Kimberly really likes the name and the theme. And the more I think on it, the more I think she’s right: whenever we think on the meaning of her name, we’ll think, “When we tried to be bitter, we were blessed beyond our hopes.” That's the close of verse five.