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Let us romanticize a monk, hunched-over, candle-lit,

a sackcloth habit snuggled close

to repel the winds besieging his abbey, medieval, dark,

his stylus tracing pregnant sounds, presumably Latin,

though perhaps Greek, Hebrew, some proto-dialect,

or the heathen’s vocabulary in their stories he loves,

Grendel, demonic, of the line of Cain,

one tale redeemed by the one he believes

which questions if Unferth, kith-killer, is beast or man.

This ink stands opposite the page, black versus white,

and yet our grey-cells imagine colour,

the flame’s soft glow, an icicle’s depth, blood’s red,

trusting that symbols represent, that meaning resides somewhere,

compelling us all to speak from the heart,

that timeless entity ruled by reason (or so we think)

to read our vast world like a book, each character

at work, every school-day’s play-script, erotic dramas,

and history’s liturgies, both sacred and secular,

stimulants derived from outside ourselves, random or determined,

that demand we respond to this old scribe’s conviction

that he merely reflects a superior poet

whose work is a vivid illumination, unfathomable.

Nathaniel A. Schmidt holds a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois, Springfield, both in English literature. His poetry has appeared in such journals as Windhover, The Penwood Review, D.S. Martin’s The 55 Project, and Time of Singing. Originally from the Chicago area, he lives in Rockford, Michigan, and teaches English at Spring Arbor University.

Image: Grendel, by J. R. Skelton, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Nathaniel A. Schmidt

Nathaniel A. Schmidt is a chaplain in the Christian Reformed Church and holds degrees from Calvin Theological Seminary, Calvin University, and The University of Illinois, Springfield. His first collection of poems, An Evensong, is available from Wipf and Stock. He lives with his librarian wife, Lydia, and their daughter in Norton Shores, MI, meaning life is a perpetual story-time.