Monday, November 18, 2019

Jacob Stratman

Jacob Stratman is an Oklahoma poet whose poems have appeared in such journals as Christian Century, Plough Quarterly, Rock & Sling, and The Windhover. He is professor of English at John Brown University in Arkansas, and is chair of the division of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is the editor behind Lessons in Disability: Essays on Teaching with Young Adult Literature (2015) and Teens and the New Religious Landscape (2018) both from McFarland Publishing.

His first poetry collection has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. What I Have I Offer With Two Hands is a collection of poems offering advice to his young sons, but advice they are probably not yet ready to receive. I am privileged to have edited this collection along with the poet. The following poem is from this collection.

For When My Sons Yell At God

Jonah Leaving the Whale Jan Breughel the Elder. Oil on panel (38 x 56 cm) ca. 1600

“It is a childish work—the whale has the head of a dog and Jonah looks suspiciously fresh.”

In candied red, the white-bearded
prophet emerges, hands still clasped in prayer,
clean, really clean, maybe too clean, first-day-
of-school clean, baptism clean. Perhaps it is
a childish painting, the punished coming up
for air after a three-day, divine timeout,
his begging and pleading inside this flesh
box, sincere or not, but he’s out, old and fresh
in a world around him, Breughel is sure
to make clear, swirling blue-black and solid
brown—the earth’s bruising, perhaps a wish
of yellow, healing in the distance, a light
faded behind the eye’s focus. The dogfish
eyes, big and rolling back. The mouth open

like the cave, like the tomb, like the brown creek
carp we refuse to touch, hate to catch, squishy
and formless but counted nonetheless. But
Jonah will dirty himself again after Nineveh,
under the vine, cussing at God telling
God His own business, and he will forget
the welcoming red, the fresh fruit color
of that cloak—the thin (or thinning) clearing
in the background beyond sea and storm,
even the mouth as exit, as release.
He will soon forget to consider how
suspicious it is for a man like him
sitting in death’s darkness for three days
to come out so clean, so bright, so forgiven.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.