By CM Davidson• Isaiah 58:6–11
Woke this morning two snoozes past
the alarm’s first call. Showered. Dressed.
Breakfasted on a bowl of puffed rice and milk
and three cups of coffee. Asked my wife
for Kaiser’s number, since my shoulder aches.
Gathered things in my bag and drove in my car
my son to school, myself to work, where
I wasted time online, talked on the phone
Poet CM Davidson struggles with the theme of "poverty" and Isaiah 58:6-11 in his work for Spark+Echo, Yoked.
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? 8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward. 9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: 11 and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
The passage from what’s called “Third Isaiah” suggested a process as natural as photosynthesis: Fast by action, in this case, free the oppressed and give what you (as a people) have to those among you who need it. The result will be God’s favor, restoration, and greater abundance than you already enjoy.
Walter Brueggemann provide conceptual grist for the poem. He writes, of this passage,
It turned out that the “facts on the ground” in restored Jerusalem were modest and shabby when contrasted with the lyrical anticipations of Second Isaiah.1
This helped me think of the narrator as someone who, in the midst of his comfort and security, feels ill at ease, dislocated. This is a common theme for literature of the last couple hundred years, but it was new to me to think that the source of that dislocation is that the privileged are the invisible ones, not the poor (verse 7). The existence of poverty and injustice doesn’t divide us from “the other” but from our brothers and sisters, from—it seems banal to write it so directly—ourselves. It should be said that what attracted me to these verses is not equivalent to what the poem expresses. As all poems do, this one found its own path.
1 Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination
CM Davidson’s work has appeared in Zyzzyva, Green Mountains Review, Zocalo Public Square, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives in Southern California with his wife and sons. He sporadically keeps up a blog, 52songs.blogspot.com.