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Poetry and Prose

Poem: "God of the Bleeding Hands" by Stacia Littlefield

Don’t talk to me of megaphones
Or capsulated reason codes
This sorrow breaks the logic bone
And viciously destroys.

For long ago my answers flew
Instead marauding questions grew
Like vultures wheeling into view
Forever shrieking, WHY?

But—O my God!—how still and stark
To see You weeping in the dark
My pounding iron question marks
Now resemble nails.

And we are quiet, You and I
Beneath a dark foreboding sky
With bludgeoned soul and reddened eyes
The hours passing slow.

Now comfort seeps into my thought
My accusations slow and stop
All I can see is one pure Heart
Who didn’t have to die.

Still, days are long and what remains
Besides consistent whittling pain?
Yet here I find You near again
With me in the hurt.

For You have given me Yourself
To have, to hold; in sickness, health
And I can long for nothing else
Having Emmanuel.

While I am down upon the earth
Where tears entwine and shadow mirth
May I, though weakly, sing this song:
In You is all completely found.


For the God of the bleeding hands is washing my feet
And the God of the streaming eyes chooses to weep.

About the Artist


Stacia Littlefield lives in Colorado Springs where she simultaneously loves the mountains and struggles with wanderlust. She is pursuing a counseling degree at Denver Seminary and hopes that God will use her life and her writing to reveal more of His great love. She contributes to EMMAUS magazine at

Poem: "The Revelator at Calvary" by Ben Holsteen

The Poem

The word came from Bethany,
“Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

I have learned,
though your ways are—
these three years on—
often veiled to me,
impenetrable as a crypt,
yet to watch, to notice,
to store up your words
and moves and deeds.

I saw the shadow
cross your face;
heard the subtle catch
as you spoke:
“This affliction
is not for death,
but glory.”

Now, as I stand
and watch you hang,
I remember.

After two days time,
we turned, and came again to Judea.
As we walked, you told us,
“He sleeps, but I will wake him.”
But I still—
these three years on—
cannot see in the dark.

Though blind, yet I watch…
Though deaf, I listen still…

Once more, and always once more,
begin the slow unfolding.


When Martha,
clothed in her grief,
cried out:
“Lord, If you had been here,
my brother would not have died,”
your reply fell on ears
full up with the tears and blood
of years,
wasted in the wilderness
of our father’s stony hearts…
of our mother’s salt-pillar necks.
Though I clung to your words,
forbid myself to lose a single syllable,
I did not hear.

And when you wept with Mary,
I watched your body heave
with sobs -
reckless -
watched you spit with anger
for the death of a friend.
I kept these bitter pictures,
and my heart was moved,
but I did not see.

When you called the dead man’s name,
and he stumbled forth,
hands and feet yet bound,
eyes, ears, and mouth
still captive to his burial clothes,
I felt a kinship,
as if he was my brother,
as if it was my body, my blood
called forth from sepulchral inertia
by a loud voice,
somehow, and at once,
familiar and foreign.

Still, you hang,
as the impossible approaches.
Still, I watch and listen;
seeing, not perceiving,
hearing, not understanding.

“Lord, If you had been here,
my brother would not have died,”
they said.
But today Lazarus lives
by the word of your mouth,
and you suffer
in silent acquiescence
as Death asserts his reign
once more.

All is lost.

In a moment,
all is plunged into darkness;
the anguished groans, derisive jeers,
the wails of loss…
all recede
into silence.

And within this tomblike stillness,
I see…

Lazarus, my brother,
emerges from the pitch,
but he is many,
thousands and tens of thousands,
their burial clothes torn like a veil,
revealing eyes
of fire and wonder.

A voice,
familiar and foreign, speaks a single word,
and from their ears
blood and water flow,
as from a pierced side.

A thrum and whirl of sound
erupts from everywhere
and nowhere;
strange music: a victory march,
lullaby and reveille.
My brothers and I, enveloped,
are lifted up by love and song,
and with a cloud of voices,
we sing.

Up and in, yet beyond our reach,
a pillar of cloud flashes and turns,
a thunderhead with no beginning and no end.
I know,
I have ever known,
that which conceals itself within;
that which I
was made to gaze upon
and love
and be made whole.

And from the cloud,
your voice, strong and clear,
speaks, as it spoke to Martha:
“I am the Resurrection and the Life”

The vision departs.
I, bound once more to dirt,
look up,
as you, my God,
give up your Spirit.

Oh, terrible beauty.
May it never and always be.

Jesus, the Christ,
help my unbelief.


About the Artist

S. Benjamin Holsteen has been on a mission to invade your hearts and minds since he first picked up a guitar back in the 7th grade. In that time he’s written in genres ranging from shoot-for-the-rafters Arena Rock to Ambient Electronica to spare, acoustic, Singer/Songwriter Folk, as well as occasionally dabbling in poetry. He’s currently sketching songs for a new, as-yet-unamed project with hopes to continue to explore new musical territories while building on his 25 years as a writer. In addition to writing, Ben leads music each week at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Colorado Springs where he serves as the Minister of Music and Church Programs, and enjoys the constant adventure of being husband to Anna and papa to Esther and Jude.

Also by this artist

Prose: "A Father's Daughter" by Heather Walker Peterson

About the Artist

Heather Peterson.jpg

Heather Walker Peterson is the outgoing 2016-17 co-director of the Anselm Arts Guild. She is a writer, writing coach, and member of Redbud Writers Guild. She ponders prayer, art, and raising her children in the faith. She writes for the Pray Channel of Humane Pursuits and has written for Patheos and the Curator. She's currently scheming more ways to get her active preschooler to enjoy visiting an art show while allowing the rest of the visitors to enjoy it too. Email Heather.

"A Father's Daughter"

Dad drives the Chevy Chevette, one side’s wheels almost on the earth of the farmer’s adjacent field and the other side on the middle of the lane to avoid the ruts. We bump along past carpenters’ square, Queen Anne’s lace, and milkweed—plants that Dad recognizes, and some which I’ll find in our wildflower book. The house has a long lane and a stream with cattails. My twin and I are ten. My sister is six. My youngest brother two. It is the summer before my fifth-grade year. We are leaving our last trailer and are in a house again, moving to southeastern Iowa.  After the thump, thump of the plank bridge over the stream, where the culvert from the field drains, we surge up to the leaning barn. An actual weather vane with a rooster tip stands on top.

To the right is a one-level house without basement or attic. An oak and maple tower on either side—with the trees and the narrow windows that crank out, it remains cool and dark most days. Dad installs a 50-gallon barrel wood stove in the living room, set on bricks, as we had in the trailer. He builds closets in our rooms, and I imagine the door to Narnia. The house is 800-feet square.

Here on this rural property, when he says his supervisors at work don’t like him, he can commute to another hospital in another town to be a nurse.  It’s the tenth time we’ve moved since I was a baby, and we’re done. My siblings and I like this acreage—watching crawdads in the creek and walking outside in our PJs to disappear into the weeds and have no one see us.  At dusk, we catch fire flies rising like smoke and are surprised that they are not perfect orbs, our skulls reverberate with the racket of cicadas, and our feet dampen with the heavy dew that rises up with whiffs of the septic tank.

When Dad’s awake, he is often on one side of the couch, drinking coffee out of a camping mug and reading. If we interrupt him, he might say, “Go away, you draw flies.” When he’s not on the couch, he’s wants something done. He walks heavier, and his lips thicken with anger.  We’re in his way, and we’re not fast enough.  Mom sends my twin out to work with him on the car, and we can hear him holler: “That’s not what I asked for!  How many times do I have to tell you.…”  She hopes that he and later my little brother will be able to handle the words that are flung like stones better than we girls.

It’s my job to wash dishes, and I’m pokey.  Dad checks the dishwater temperature with his fingers, drains it, fills the metal sink with steaming water and plunges my hands into it: “There! That’s what it’s supposed to feel like.” After nightfall one evening, he sends my twin and me out to harvest the sweet corn with our machetes. Sometimes on a Saturday morning, if we have errands to start, he walks into our rooms banging a big spoon against a cast iron pan, laughing until I once screamed, “I hate you! I hate you!”

At supper, though, he’ll tell stories about camping with his brother as a kid.  In the evening, if driving home from somewhere, he responds to our begging and sings Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” or Stan Jone’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” I lean back for the last one and watch the stars.

One morning of my freshman year of high school, Dad takes me in early to town. I’m making up an absence in P.E. at the indoor swimming pool. The gravel down our four-block lane crunches as he avoids dips, and the rocks spit in the rural road until we reach concrete heading into town, houses and not farms. We pass a residential development, where the girl I think is the epitome of cool, the future of editor of the school newspaper, lives.

Normally I dread P.E., but in swimming I had grace—not my flat, angular board of a body trying to fall out of the aim of a dodge ball.  Once when twirling in the deep end by myself, I looked up and saw the old janitor high in the balcony, sitting gazing before shuffling back to work.

My dad isn’t saying much this morning.  If he’s in a good mood, he talks a lot.  If he’s not, it’s best for me to keep my mouth shut. He starts to speak. He’s glad to have this opportunity alone. There’s something he needs to tell me.  He’s telling each of us kids separately. My stomach tenses. He says: “I’m an alcoholic. I have been for years.”

For some kids, this might not have been such a revelation, but for our household where alcohol indicated your complicity with “the world,” it was as if a malicious demigod had taken an axe to our being—and the roots, a façade, shattered on impact. Weeks later when he “fifth-stepped” himself with us by direction of his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, we would see how badly we had been duped.  He wasn’t just an alcoholic who masqueraded with a different name in bars when he was late from work, he was a smoker—another evangelical taboo, and he got high on drugs he filched from his job.  Everything was explained: his explosions of anger when interrupted—he was hung-over, the cigarette smoke on his coat and the butts in the yard left by his “friends”—he was smoking during the day after his night shift, the moving from hospital to hospital—his supervisors started to wonder about the missing medication.  

When your dad says that he was part of the hippie culture for a while, or that his first hard drugs were in Vietnam, those are all excuses.  Excuses didn’t work for you, and you weren’t going to accept them for him.  Nothing like this happened to people who were Christians, I thought. My eyes stinging from chlorine, one arm stretched out—my Dad is—and as it pushed back and the other heaved forward—an alcoholic.

Fast forward to my early thirties. God is hiding from me. I’m depressed. When I take a shower, I imagine my body dissolving into liquid spheres reflecting the chrome of the spigot, the dull white of the walls, and rushing to meet the tub’s floor, then racing down the drain’s whirl.

I’ve returned home from Saturday evening church, another night where my act of faith is showing up, sitting there. We had watched an internet clip about a barrel-chested father who pushes and pulls his son with spastic paralysis and cerebral palsy through triathlons.  I shut my apartment door, and I lose it. The lights are too bright. My existence an insult. I switch them off.  I muffle ragged cries to not disturb my neighbors or the regular partiers who pass my door. The dark has angles, the corners of this half buried square box--a “garden-level” apartment--rotating and stabbing out over my head.  I call for help.  

My friend Judy lives a mile and a half away and arrives within minutes; she’s phoned another friend, who will be there momentarily. Judy turns one or two lights on but not many.  The effect is warm and yellow. I hug my knees. I tell them that I would have been more loveable to my parents, made more sense if I had been bent and folded permanently instead of the little loner girl who became an angry teenager. The world will disappoint you but family shouldn’t, especially not your kids. I had absorbed this—something was wrong with me. I disappointed all the time.

Judy kneels next to me. She takes my right hand and presses it to my sternum.  She prays that I’ll have a sense of being, that all the water droplets will recognize who they are and know the wholeness of being Heather, God’s daughter.

It was Judy who at the end of college told me to engage with the world by engaging with God. “Stop dialoguing with yourself,” she said. “Dialogue with him.”  She gave me Practicing the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence was a Catholic, which raised my eyebrows, but his words light with everyday living floated to the top of my life’s current, gave me something to rest my submerged dog strokes. All the talking to myself, the mental review of my interactions with others—the questioning of how I should have said something, how I should have been, I began to direct to God.  “That was hard,” I tell him internally, a lot.  

I had lived assuming that the people I met each day judged me, found fault, and were secretly against me.  It would take time to name the image of God on all human beings. It took time to treat others with a measured trust and see them in their brokenness when they did give offense.

Charmed by Brother Lawrence’s simple words, I started dialoguing with God as a twenty-two-year old. I would clunk the door shut on my Ford Escort and walk into a Target.  Back then with a pennypincher Mom, Target felt to me like the toiletry store for the stylish set. I liked that boxes of additional items didn’t loom above me as in Walmart.  But I hated to be there alone. So vulnerable, so many different people, and I was afraid I looked sloppy in my oversized shirt, inept, unable to find my feminine pads and favorite pens and get out. I’d have to ask for help and feel stupid. That day was different.  I had someone with me who didn’t care if I repeatedly twittered to him that I couldn’t find those pens, who was humored that when I found the pens, I set them on top of the pads as if they could hide the blue container. The Chinese red of Target did indicate happiness that evening.  The banners and signs beckoned at the shiny packaging.  I could do this. I could browse for a while. I could admire the moms with their recent haircuts and well-jeaned kids, passing the college guys stocking up on chips and salsa. My Heavenly Father was with me.