|“It’s an old Bible, burgundy leather…”
|“Well loved, well worn…”|
By Virginia Knowles
It’s an old Bible, burgundy leather
Not ancient from generations past
But growing old with me
From college days until now
Three decades and change.
Oh yes, the changes:
One wedding, ten children
Two grandchildren in the generation after that
Entered onto the Marriage and Birth pages.
(There are Deaths, too.)
Nine moves, a dozen churches, in three states
And many more states of mind.
I have many Bibles in many versions
Each one an anchor, a refuge for the soul.
Yet I always return to this one
Well loved, well worn: underlined, highlighted
Small prayers, Greek and Hebrew roots,
And faith jingles mingle, scribbled in margins
And faith jingles mingle, scribbled in margins
Even diagrams and tiny impromptu sketches
To illustrate some fine point gleaned along the way.
And when I do not know what to read
This Bible always opens, as if by itself
Pages falling quite naturally to Psalms 65 to 68:
“You gave abundant showers, O God,
You refreshed your weary inheritance.”
And so you have, Lord, raining showers and refreshing
This weary soul from this worn Book.
In a hard moment
One of many hard moments in these years of change
I carry this refuge to a quieter place to read, reflect.
And I see again in a new light
The three decades and change of
Wear and tear on Book and soul:
Frayed-edged pages pulling away
Unstitching themselves in great chasms
From the burgundy leather cover
Which was meant to shelter them.
I too am tattered in places
At times tossed loose by life
From my Shelter, my own dear Refuge.
This will not do, Book or soul.
(Rein me in Lord, reign in me.)
So still pondering the words on the frayed pages
And out of respect for the Eternal Word that never fades
I set out to repair, rebind
Making sure the loose pages do not slip
Out of the sheaves, out of my heart
(Even the hard ones I would rather not always read).
And when I am done, my fixes are conspicuous
It has been rebound, not to look fancy and new
But merely to hold pages together in burgundy leather
To hold me together inside my Enduring Refuge
For thirty more years and change.
|Open to Psalms 65 to 68|
I had already been thinking of writing “Rebound” when I read the “Roses are Red” post on the Allume blog for Christian women bloggers. Part of the “31 Days to Become a Better Writer” series, it challenges reader/writers to pen a poem. So I set to it.
I started with a thought web, the words “Old Bible Rebound” circled in the center, with spokes leading to various and sundry brainstorms of what I might include, like a mention of the Family Record pages to fit the recurring theme of passing years and generations. Then I jotted my first draft, crossing out and rephrasing as I went. With prose, I nearly always start a first draft on the computer, but poems (at least mine) are best born with pen and paper.
You have noticed that I do not use rhyme (except “jingles mingle”) or regular rhythm. I am mainly a free verse poet, relying on metaphors, parallel themes, and spiritual symbolism. And yet even a free verse poet cannot just throw the words on a page. There is always tweaking and pruning. Not everything can be crammed into the verses without rambling or distracting or breaking the flow. I did not want your train of thought to lose its caboose. So I had to choose. There is much I did not say then in the poem, but some that I will say now.
|Stuck together somehow!|
In this poem, I use the word rebound loosely. I am not a professional bookbinder; I didn’t replace the cover or painstakingly stitch pages back in. I used strips of two inch wide clear packing tape to secure the pages. I could not, however, bring myself to use the word tape in my poem; it seemed too modern, not universal enough. Then, too, I hoped my readers would subtly pick up the alternate meaning of rebound, the present tense verb. I didn’t elucidate on this in the poem, because I didn’t want to complicate it or confuse anyone. But here it is: “to bound or spring back from force of impact, or to recover, as from ill health or discouragement.” It is also my prayer that I will always be able to rebound, in due time, from setbacks and discouragement that wear me down.
|Tattered and frayed pages|
Perhaps a few more background details about my Bibles? The first Bible I personally owned, purchased a day or so after I got saved in 1976, was a little white King James Version (KJV) Bible. Unfortunately, a dozen years later, I accidentally left it in my toddler daughter’s room during nap time, and she shredded the delicate pages into hundreds of pieces. Just as an odd lesson on the worth of the Word, I had her sit and watch me tape it back together, sliver by sliver. It was, of course, completely unusable, and I eventually discarded it. In 1979, I bought my first New International Version (NIV), a brown hardback, when it really was new, quite the innovation. It is certainly easier to read than the KJV, though not as poetic. I received the burgundy leather NIV Bible as a gift from a (long gone) boyfriend in April 1981 when I was 17, in my first semester of college, at the cusp of the adventures of life. Along the way, I also acquired an NIV Study Bible (a gift from my sister), a few English Standard Version (ESV) Bibles), a Message New Testament (a rough paraphrase, not a true translation), my grandfather’s Revised Standard Version (RSV), and a few others. (I never really liked the ESV, since it seemed a bit stilted to me, but it was the version used in a church we attended for many years. I remember sighing with satisfaction once when the pastor pulled out an old NIV to quote in a message, saying his ESV was in the shop being rebound. There was a redemptive yes in my soul! I was also quite relieved to find that our new church uses the NIV 1984 version; on the one hand because I love the NIV, on the other, because I’m not sure I could go along with some word choices in later NIV editions.) But I digress. I also use www.BibleGateway.com or the free YouVersion Bible app in on iPod nearly every day to look something up.
So there you have it. “Rebound” and more. Can you write a poem about a significant object in your home or one you remember from childhood? Yes, you can! Go do it!
- My Glorious Dish Towel (essay which parallels this poem’s themes)
- Fixing This and That — Like a Pile of Books!
- My Story of Liberty in 1976
Refuge and Renewal to you,