5Jul '11
A pair of very worn-out shoes

Miserere mei

Call me Judas
Call me Judah
Call me Samson, Saul, or Cain
Call me Pontius or Serpent
Call me every evil name

Let me wander unforgiven
Through the cursed land of Nod
Let me seek but always circumvent
The purposes of God

I am David watching rooftops
When I should have been at war
I am Lust and Greed and Gluttony
Always wanting more

I am not proud; I am Pride
Diotrephes, the First
I am Pharisee and Rabbi
A Hypocrite; the worst.

Too late.
Never too late!

Have mercy on me, O God,
in your steadfast love;
Cover my transgressions
Your compassion is enough.

I bring the only sacrifice
That could ever compensate
A broken and repentant heart:
Thank God it’s not too late.

So…

Call me Matthias now, not Judas
Chosen, in his place
Added, underservingly
I serve the God of grace.

This poem grew out of a friend’s Facebook post: “Rachel in the Bible was named after what she did, if you were named after what you do, what would your name be?”. The first thought that popped into my head – almost certainly from The Accuser – was “Judas”. Then I remembered the first line of Moby Dick (“Call me Ishmael”) and came up with this.

The “Too Late / Never too late” comes from Doctor Faustus, which I went to see at the Globe last week – it had a profound effect on me and I’ll write something about that soon.  The Doctor has sold his soul to the Devil for twenty-four years of pleasure; he considers turning back to God but a demon tells him it’s too late.  “Never too late, if Faustus will repent” is the angel’s reply, and the message of my poem.

… and the title comes from the opening of Psalm 51, David’s heartfelt cry of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba.  Miserere mei Deus… Have mercy on me, O God.

Image Credit: Flickr user mcandrea

2 comments

  1. Rhythms, rhythms, rhythms! You tell this epic tale that begins with but a name, but then that name expands to signify so much! What an unfurling. It was also interesting to hear about the way that you created the poem – simply taking inspiration form a facebook post! How often does that happen?

  2. Thanks for your comment! I find most of what I write stems from hearing a word here and there, a snippet caught in converation that feels like it could be the seed of something worth nurturing; sometimes it grows into a poem. I’ve got a few more like this in the works which I’ll post soon.Speaking of names, did you spot the play on Matthias/Matt? Matthias was the replacement for Judas, chosen by lot. So the poem is about redemption and grace – the theological themes that most interest me.I often write stuff with two parts – like ‘Ragamuffin Men’ (http://blog.bitdifferent.com/ragamuffin-men-poem) which hinges around the ‘ BUT… ‘. The trouble is, it’s usually much easier for me to believe the first part. I feel an obligation to those who read or hear my work to leave on a positive note… and hence there’s sometimes more authenticity in the first half than the second. At the moment, this is probably particularly true of this poem, as I struggle with reconciling a few things that make faith quite difficult. But… God is good, and the best is yet to come :-)

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