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After William Blake’s “Jerusalem,” and for F. Scott Hoffman (requiescat in pace)

by Josh Bishop

Christ preached New England’s Pilgrim fields
from pulpit and with musket ball;
the light of Christ from Old North Church
shined clear to Independence Hall.

Christ westward crossed the fruited plain;
Christ bled to free the Southern slaves;
Christ led the million marching men
who dreamed Christ’s dream with MLK.

What now is this Christ-haunted land?
How long will we deny our Lord?
Where are the men who build and fight?
Where is my shovel? Where my sword?

By grace, we’ll build New Christendom:
from sea to shining sea he reigns!
His kingdom come, his will be done
in these United States again.

Christmas Triptych

by Josh Bishop


From in the neighbor’s house, warm lamplight,
overflowing in a homey amber glow,
extends its pleasant beams into the night, 
spilling from a row of green-wreathed windows
to paint a quaint, Kinkadian sight:
The panes cast golden, scalene squares on snow
that falling all day long has gathered white
and freshly billowed on the ground below.


And all at once the midnight sky turns bright
in brilliant, sunless dawn: A hundred score
of close-come stars — no, angels! — recite
their song to shepherds in their fields: Glory
to God! Still, these simple shepherds can’t quite
grasp what all this means — no, not before
they witness Joseph lifting high the light
of the world from a bloody, straw-strewn floor.


We must’ve caught and torn a piece of night
sky when we cut our tree from Prince’s farm.
Look how the strings of incandescent lights
approximate inside our home the charm
of cloudless winter evenings, crisp and bright.
We’ve seen through leafless branches those same stars
while walking on the snowy streets in moonlight,
hand-in-mittened-hand to keep us warm.

Bell, Book, and Candle

by Josh Bishop

“But these dark powers do not rule the universe: they are in rebellion against Providential order; and by bell, book, and candle, literally or symbolically, we can push them down under.”

Russell Kirk

A faceless hood unfolds from Corbett’s crypt.
A clammy fog fast fills the churchyard lawn.
At witching hour, hours before the dawn,
some specter’s skin-crawl claw creeps in to grip
the throat with fingers like a hangman’s rope.
This ancient power manifest tonight
(malice-made-flesh, perverse incarnate wight)
has come to leach your life and, worse, your hope.
Best pray that Tailor John will too soon chime
his cock-crow toll, his solemn, pealing call;
or incantate the Word — some sacred rhyme
breathed out on quivering, unsure lips is all
you’ll need; or light the feeble, flickering shine
of candle flame to drive away the pall.

H.M.S. Dimnent

Dimnent Memorial Chapel, Hope College – Holland, Michigan

by Josh Bishop

Three stone steps, then through the chapel doors to stairs
ascending down into the hull. There’s ceiling tiles
beneath our feet (black-and-white-checked chess-board squares)
and far above our heads the vaulted roof-ridge keel’s
held high by buttressed ribs. Brilliant stained-glass portholes
cast colored light full bright from some delightful land
on pews where galley bondslaves four times each week row
their oars in common meter to the drums’ command.
On the sternchancel deck, beside the ship’s-wheel pulpit,
the faithful helmsman crouches, steering strong and true
along the Captain’s bearing, guided by the sextant
of the Word. The westward rose-window prow cuts through
the swells to lead our rightwise stone sanctuary
toward the kingdom that has overturned this world.
A watchman chimes eight bells from the crow’s-nest belfry;
the lamps are lit, main and mizzen sails unfurled;
the crew belowdecks gathers at the board to eat
a double portion, strong wine and hardtack rations.
Weigh anchor! We’ve long leagues left in this topsy sea —
keel-up, mast-down — and still the Captain cries, “Sail on.”

Backpacking Somewhere Near Red Bridge

by Josh Bishop

In a coppice of aspen, their trunks silver-white, 
bright beams of splendent sunlight like spearshafts in flight
pierce down through a ceiling of branches. The leaves 
as a yellow-green snow falling soft in the breeze
drift to earth, and they flash as they turn in the sun.
I swear — swear to God! — that the leaves of Lothlorien
pale when compared to this common, anonymous
wood; the Fields of Elysium, set next to this, 
cannot be nearer to heaven; if Avalon
ever had gardens, their beauty’d be counted as none
by any who’ve had the grand fortune to stand in
this spinney. No wonder the ancient pagans 
built altars to worship the gods in these spaces
where numina stoop to ordain common places.

The Bells of Christendom

The bells of Christendom, now long gone,
once rang throughout the West.
Laudo Deum verum, they tolled,
and all who heard were blessed.
They knelled sad news of every death
and lauded every birth
and marked at quarter hours each day
the turning of the earth.

But all the bells of Christendom
are fallen mute and dumb:
Where are the Sabbath summons, now?
The public calls to come
and worship Christ the risen king?
Where, now, their glad refrain?
Where Benedictus Dominus?
Where Oremus proclaim?

The dormant bells of Christendom
wait silent for that day
when the church, like bantys at the dawn,
cock-crows all men awake.
But who will steal to soundless steeples?
Who pull the bellman’s rope?
Where are the men to set the world
a-ring with sounding hope?

Let’s toll one bell for Christendom — 
ring one, at least, again!
Then Tailor Paul will clap his tongue,
and with his full amen
lay low the powers of the air.
He’ll drive the storms away.
He’ll gong the gospel — Christ is won! —
and keep the fiend at bay.

Do you hear the bells of Christendom?
Listen to their knell!
Though still an echo on the wind,
they sound a rising swell
’til, from steeples and from belfries,
their peals will fill the sky.
Yes, we’ll hear the bells of Christendom
resound before we die.

© 2022 Josh Bishop

A Meager Harvest

by Josh Bishop

This hard-hoed soil’s ceding nothing now.
An early frost has taken this year’s crops,
and still the farmer, with unyielding brow,
stone-sets his jaw and bends to tend his plot.

There’s precious little left: a sheaf of wheat,
a pale, emaciated gourd or two.
It cannot be enough. From weary knees
he stands, resolved to yet again make do.

He lifts his desperate, thin, fear-furrowed face
to search the slate-cold, cloud-scuffed skies above:
“We thank you, Lord, for these, Thy gifts,” he prays,
and then, again: “Lord, let it be enough.”

Family Liturgy

The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night
and a perfect end. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer

With curtains in each cloistered bedroom drawn
against the shine of lights that line the streets,
we settle in for compline with a yawn.

Young Oliver is first: he’s blessed with peace;
I sing of peace, too, like a river, then
hold him while he slowly drifts downstream.

Now Jack: A prayer and song, then we begin  
our sacred work of whispered conversation,
rehearsing each day’s joys and pains again.

Both boys receive a matching benediction:
that God would bless and keep them through the night,
that each might live to see his children’s children —

and then a forehead kiss. I dim the lights
and whisper from the hall a hushed “Goodnight.”

© 2021 Josh Bishop

It’s a beautiful day!

Rum-di-tum-hey! It’s a beautiful day!
See the birds taking wing on the breeze!
See the sun stare from high with his solitaire eye
Over meadows and creek beds and trees.

Hey-rumpty-drum! Here the wet west wind comes,
With it stormclouds and soggy-soaked skies. 
Quick! Shelter from harm where it’s cozy and warm,
While the thunderclaps clamor outside.

Rum-dumter-ee! Makes no matter to me!
Whether cloudburst or sun’s shining ray,
I’ve got breath in me lungs, and whatever may comes,
Still I’ll say, ‘It’s a beautiful day!’

© 2020 Josh Bishop

Our home contains the world, these days

A sonnet for the Covid-19 shutdown.

Our home contains the world, these days. Not all
We love, perhaps, but most and dearest-held
Is sheltered safe inside these shabby walls.
We hadn’t noticed how our lives had swelled
Like springtime floods that, everflowing, rise
To overwhelm the riverbanks but won’t
Recede again; our floodplain never dries.
Diversions tugged relentlessly (they don’t
Deserve the time we gave them). Swindled by
False urgency, we’d grasped toward each demand.
Turns out this busied frenzy was a lie;
The only tasks worth doing are at hand. 
This sudden, unexpected ebb has shown
How small, yet rich, our cares should be: our own.

© 2020 Josh Bishop