Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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The Lines Have Fallen

July 25, 2023

Susan Cowger

Staking—I think of tomatoes, fat fruit needing help in the form of ties or bracing. Call it outside strength and protection during critical periods of weakness. What about staking your life on something and later having regrets? How does one stake internal regrets flapping in the winds of the soul, anguish that snaps and frays in gales of condemnation for a lifetime? Is there staking for this, reliable staking, when there is no going back? Is there staking a way out of the ether of the past? Righteousness alone can overpower and revive a life dead in past weakness and failure. Not our righteousness. Think of the nails in Jesus’ perfect hands and feet, staking our ruined lives with forgiveness.

The Lines Have Fallen

“What power has love but forgiveness?”  — William Carlos Williams

Shhhhhh    he’s almost gone    old Hans so deaf

hollering is pointless    I watch the cushion of his lawn chair 


more each passing day    Call it refusal to die    

or a hell of a story


Redemption’s unpronounced for now    not lost or undelivered 

like a package or a bullet badly aimed    More like a secret

protracted mission    orders given    standing firm 

a lifetime    Resigned obedience


to the charge    Join this Great War or die 

still imprisons him    as the downturn of 

years buffet his spine now bent nearly in two    like a storm-stretched

sycamore    roots resorting to deeper taps


I imagine him in Germany accepting the privilege of rank

Like a stout wooden pole strapped with their transmitter

steady    compliant Hans    ever the unflinching soldier 

Brownouts waver


through his body    The wires have come down now    droop   

All that remains is giving up

that first forced surrender    Blue sparks 

snap & pop    Dangling lines seek the ground    


like a viperous snake   Power


The featured image is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating.


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  1. Love the multiple images you use to combine aging, war memories, bodily decay, and the dangerous power of redemption–hints of excitement, hope, and promise pointing to what we will become.

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