The Ancient Modern

Who Are Awake /  Joshua Alan Sturgill     

How might we, who are awake and engaged,
who sustain the world with our important occupations,
describe the Guileless Man?  To us, he seems  

half-sleeping, naive, untethered and pitiful
in his innocence: like a child, full of simple wisdom. 
But perhaps we can make his words

useful. We can take them for prophecies and advice
that affirm our assumptions about the remnant
of goodness still left in the world.

He speaks of angels or demons, but of course
he means the power of love or the weight of suffering.
We paint an image of him, with his eyes

raised toward a better world we will see someday, when
our work is done.  There he is, poor sweet soul, cast
in a pastel glow, stranded in a dream.  If this

is how we regard the merely Guileless, what is left
to say of the true Saints of God — the Enochs
and the Elijahs, the sacred ones, assuming

any with us today?  To us who are awake
and tied up with obligations, who sustain the world
with our expertise, the Saints — if we happen

to meet them — would be like fairytale sleepers,
forever disengaged, abandoned in forgotten corners
with weeds growing up around them. 

They would seem dead, not even dreaming, lost
in a slumber absolute.  And yet,
some lonely winter weekend afternoon, work 

not finished but paused, a book and a warm drink
at hand, could we allow ourselves to wonder
about a world in which our stations are reversed,

a world where the Saints are awake.  They are like
white-robed physicians, attending to us where we lie
in a quiet ward, unresponsive and barely clinging to life


All poetry and supplementary material: copyright 2022 by Joshua Alan Sturgill. All rights reserved.

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