advent journal: examined by love


    This evening we gathered around our dinner table with friends, as is our Friday night custom, and one of them, John, said, “I have a poem to read.” What followed were words full of flavor and sustenance by a poet named Thomas Centolella, who was a new name to me. I would be remiss if I did not pass along to you what was given to me.

    In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love

    And it won’t be multiple choice,
    Though some of us would prefer it that way.
    Neither will it be essay, which tempts us to run on
    When we should be sticking to the point, if not together.
    In the evening, there shall be implications
    Our fear will change to complications. “No cheating,”
    We’ll be told, and we’ll try to figure the cost of being true
    To ourselves. In the evening, when the sky has turned
    That certain blue, the blue of exam books, books of no more
    Daily evasion, we shall climb the hill as the light empties
    And park our tired bodies on a bench above the city
    And try to fill in the blanks. And we won’t be tested
    Like defendants on trial, cross-examined
    Till one of us breaks down, guilty as charged. No,
    In the evening, after the day has refused to testify,
    We shall be examined on love like students
    Who don’t even recall signing up for the course
    And now must take their orals, forced to speak for once
    From the heart and not off the top of their heads.
    And when the evening is over and it’s late
    The student body asleep, even the great teachers
    Retired for the night, we shall stay up
    And run back over the questions, each in our own way:
    What’s true and what’s false, what unknown quantity
    Will balance the equation, what it would mean years from now
    To look back and know
    We did not fail.

    I am grateful that John left the typewritten page with the poem here because I want to roam around in these lines over the next few days, but tonight the take away for me was, “forced to speak for once from the heart and not off the top of their heads,” which we did in the almost three hours that followed his reading of the poem, each of us around the table doing our best both to tell stories and to listen. On evenings like this, friendships grow deeper and hope takes root like the ivy that refuses to relent in its attempt to climb the side of our house.

    It was good to be here.



    1. I pictured this as a wonderful, warm scene from a movie starring you. The slow pan of faces around the table as your friend read the poem with the camera finally landing on your face, beaming in a pensively ponderous way. Oh, and there were glorious platters and colorful bowls holding the remains of some delicious fare you had concocted just for the occasion. And wine bottles and glasses. Lots of them, placed amongst rumpled cloth napkins.

      Oh, please tell me this is how it happened!

    2. That poem is beautiful. I’m glad you shared it. And the evening sounds lovely. You get together with friends every Friday evening? Brilliant idea!

      It’s this line that I will keep for awhile: “…we should be sticking to the point, if not together.”

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