Deborah Boydston Deborah Boydston
Recommendations: 45

"in rustles and whispers beneath my fingers" love these lines.

Deborah Boydston Deborah Boydston
Recommendations: 45

"I want to live in three bibles before I die one for each daughter" such a beautiful aspiration.

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Sheena Koops Sheena Koops
Recommendations: 1

poem for a worn and torn bible

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soul mates

I took a night class for seven weeks with Saskatchewan author, Donna Caruso. This series of poems is my product.


Pages, thinner than paper thin, hold the words
I would live by, hold
photos, notes, pedals
fingerprints, pressed like emotions
       held tight through the years
       like hands in prayer
until they fall on my lap

Look, here’s Angela and I
arms wrapped, on the snow in skis
smiles wide like the valley at our back
and I wear a brown woollen sweater
       a gift from Rob
       that high school crush
       I crushed

And here he is again
even within the Word


My graduation gift
is split down Ephesians
too fragile to take to church
so I leave it at home
tuck it beside my bed
afraid my daughters will pick it up
and lose loose memories
afraid the page held by four stitches
will float away
afraid to flip here and flip there
(but no other bible will do
because I can’t find that verse
in an unmarked text)


Rob was always just there
I tell my writing friends
like a cotton bunnyhug
a lingering lullaby
a worn and torn bible
my teacher says
did you hear what you just said
he was always just there
I say, he gave me that sweater
I don’t remember why
it was scratchy and I had to wear
a tee-shirt against my skin
but I kept it for years
even after I married
even after he married, and divorced
and loved many, enough to have
a daughter
even after I stayed with my husband
I kept it


I’d always wanted a bible
as a gift, in grade six I bought my own
and had my mom sign it from her
but I always knew it wasn’t
and its black plastic cover bothered me
slippery to touch
symbolic of the phoniness of it all

I must have just used hand-me-downs
at Sunday School, church camp
and the Christian boarding school
we all attended
because on the farm
there was no shortage of soft-covered
hard covered, self study, paraphrase
New International, King James, Norwegian

To be fair, I guess the Gideons gifted me in grade six
(a good year for bibles)
but it was little and red and not what I longed for
girls like Angela who were boy crazy and pretty
had grown-up pink bibles presented
like they got asked on dates
their God-given-right
and me with my rubber boots
hair long and tangled by prairie wind
picking crocuses in the spring


The soft pages are housed in a cow-hide patchwork
my sister brought from Estonia
where people keep their dear books
protected, but such precaution came
too late for me
and my letters and psalms
are ailing  
even within these leathery walls
waiting for death or at least retirement
yet dearer for the years
and tears spilled on passages
poignant and powerful
as the day they were born


Since Rob’s illness
I read scripture listening for
whole words to speak into brokenness
that he is a worthy man
though there is no such thing
we know God knows
what I mean
that holy words are
intense like salt and vinegar
perfect like sugar and cinnamon
necessary like wafer and wine
that holy words are for common men
and average women
that holy words would reach down our throats
until we spew the pain of body
and breathe in the light bright bonfire
as we hold hands and sing
we damn the darkness


If my bible could speak
what would it say
what would the word be
in rustles and whispers
beneath my fingers 1 comment

would it greet us
as a long-time friend
just back from a holiday
tell me where you’ve been?
how was the weather?

would it welcome
as a sweetheart’s ghost
long gone and still present
what’s keeping you here?
you have to stop doing this to me

or, would it send us begging
like the prodigal son’s big brother
down on our knees
what do you have to say for yourself?
nobody here, just you and me

woe,  woe, woe says
the father of the wayward
who waits with arms wide
like a broken bible
ready to enfold this snapshot
of a loved one coming home


Speak into the silence
of this sentence
all those trapped between pages
of unfinished stories
a little girl brought back from the dead
in time to wake her wailing family
or the woman caught in adultery
and the man who was her better half
where are they now
these kindred spirits
Jesus told to go and sin no more
where are they now


(I read and reread
to test if I’ve tucked
the right note
into these pages, but
the meaning is a river
wet and cold
and where exactly is upstream
the origin of this flow?)

Have I mentioned Rob’s work
to feed the hungry and love the lonely
or the songs he writes into the hearts
of soul-sick seniors and the rest of us
who don’t know we’re dying?

Did I explain the devils he duels
or the distance he’s danced
from those names on the playground
and the way he goes into every relationship
knowing he must win this one over?

What about when we were in school
and he wouldn’t lead prayer or singing
like the other guys
or read from the bible in chapel
but chose to befriend
the least of these, even me
and remember how we would
laugh and laugh and laugh?


I want to live in three bibles
before I die
one for each daughter
and everyone except me
knows its time to move on
but new pages stick like honey
and how will it feel in my hands 1 comment


I remember the graduation banquet
hosted by my church family in Estevan
I think there were five of us
my cousins and Allan and Jim Calvin
when the minister presented bibles
burgundy leather and red lettered
with the only problem being, the version
New American Standard
stung my Canadian ears
but here was my dream come true
so I could overlook the insult


Last night I dreamt that our family
was driving to Vancouver
Michael drove the first leg, I think
to Calgary, where I took over
and when I came to consciousness
I’d gone the wrong direction
and had sleep-driven back to Regina
I was embarrassed, but so glad
I hadn’t driven off a cliff in the mountains

I only remember this dream
when my middle daughter is asking
when we will go to Victoria again
she’s heard they have a planetarium
and she might want to be a scientist
and lecture at a university, some day
(and I don’t mention that
Uncle Rob lives in Vancouver
and what does this BC trip gone wrong
mean symbolically?)

She and I have stayed home from church together
and are having our own study and prayer
she reads from John 3, to contextualize
her favourite verse, I read
Ephesians 3:20, right where my bible
splits in two, and talks of One who can do more
than we ask or imagine, dream big
I tell her.


I’ve just remembered that I did buy
myself a new bible in high school
I think it was a hard cover, yes, and red
the paper crisp like linen on my fingers
with no concordance or map in the back
and I began to keep pressed flowers
yes, I remember clipping dogwood
from a trip to British Columbia
and the smell
I remember sour flowers
and dorm rooms of unmade beds
and yesterday’s garbage
because it’s Saturday and there’s no room check

I gave that book away to a young man
who came to our bible school
just before he left
told me he made his own costume
for fancy dancing, how every feather
had to be fastened so securely
it wouldn’t come off in the ring
and he had long black hair when he arrived
on campus, and we sat in the cafeteria talking
and on the ice-age erratic outside the classroom building
just after they’d made him cut his hair
I was more upset than he was
but now that I know my history
I guess he couldn’t expect more
from a church school

he never said goodbye
except for the eagle feather
enveloped in a loose leaf note
folded in threes


Since Rob’s stage four non-hodgkins lymphoma
heaven is a scarf of many colours at my throat
hot and heavy and beautiful
selfishness is a glass of water on my lips
clear and cool and easy 1 comment

even as the good book
holds us together
more and more
we are ripped apart

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