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In the Distance We Tread

Posted by Marisa Lin on

“The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded.” (Exodus 17:1 NIV)

There is a distance that curls ‘round
bodies of trees clothed in shaky silver,
hesitating in the bend to express
that lofty ceiling of what-could-be’s
and what might be’s,
the morass of that other world.
At once you find yourself
perched on the cushions, queen
above the slender conifers swaying
to the graces of your beckoning,
only to realize the thorn in your side
and the bristling lattice below catching
you mired among the thicket as
the unglossed evening widens and taunts a swallowing.

In this unreached country thoughts glisten
as raccoon pupils, peering and ghostlike
under unwritten constellations. A deer
darts into your questioning gaze as
the forest leans its hips into yours,
snaring and forgiving. No helicopter
in the tar-spilled sky to rescue
the traveler tossed rough-like to the grasses,
receiving a mercy absent in the kindest of blows.

The seedling breaking earth’s flesh
recalls original gestation (for we were there, once),
the beauty of embryo, the yawning womb.
And earth’s dusk death suggests another:
vigorous warbles the early bird,
but when the sun sinks
so do her eyes. Protests form loose
in your throat, clanging upon the stolid rocks.
Something now is coalescing
around your skin; something is crouching
at your door. Crisps of wind wisps whisper
tendrils into undulating silence.

Message etched into the blocks of discarded concrete,
weeds curving out of cement nostrils:
why do we slip like a sheet on a shiny surface,
why must the excavation uproot the tree?
Besmirched grandeur, former paradise, a fissured shell –
does the LORD grasp the multiplicity of his pottery, his
asymmetrical creation?

In the distance we tread, promised
only the blankets upon our shoulders.


Marisa Lin began attending The River Church Community in late 2018. She is a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she was involved during all four years in InterVarsity's campus ministry. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the contours of language through poetry.


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