On that morning, still stunned and having dismissed my also stunned American literature class at University of Missouri, I made my way to a familiar coffee house, where I met up with my old friend Travis Tamerius, then pastor of a local church.
We greeted one another, expressed our grief and incredulity, but soon realized we had little else to say, numbed and puzzled as we were by the morning's horrific events, which were continuing to play out.
Travis quietly set to work on what would prove a very difficult sermon for the following Sunday, and I set to work on the following poem. I offer it now as something of a continuing meditation on the perplexity that lay before us then, that extends before us now, here in the meantime, the exceedingly mean time, the time being.
And the pillar of fire, and the pillar of cloud
Did not depart from before the people.
According to the promise, we had known
we would be led, and that the ancient God
would deign to make His hidden presence shown
by column of fire, and pillar of cloud.
We had come to suspect what fierce demand
our translation to another land might bode,
but had not guessed He would allow our own
brief flesh to bear the flame, become the cloud.