Monday, September 4, 2023

Jean Janzen*

Jean Janzen is a Canadian-born Mennonite poet, who has lived her adult life in the United States, primarily in Fresno, California. She is the author of such poetry collections as The Upside-Down Tree (Windflower Communications, 1992) and Tasting the Dust (Good Books, 2000).

She has taught at Fresno Pacific and at Eastern Mennonite University, and has served as a minister of worship at the College Community Mennonite Brethren Church in Clovis, California. She has written hymn texts, which have been set to music and are included in several hymn books, including “Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth.”

The following poem is from her collection What the Body Knows (DreamSeeker Books/Cascadia Publishing House, 2015).

What the Body Knows

Maybe it’s the ocean’s rhythmic tug
that helps me sleep, my body’s own
surge remembering its deepest pulse.

Think of those Celtic monks who
scaled the slippery rocks carrying
vellum and inks while the sea broke

and battered beneath them. High
in a crevice, a hidden stone hut
with cot and candle. The scribe

dips and swirls his quill to preserve
the story—Luke’s genealogy,
name after name, letters shaped

like birds in every color, a flight
of messengers released into history.
Each word unfurls the promise,

like Gabriel kneeling. The body
knows that wings, like waves,
can break through walls and enter,

that the secret of the story
is love, that even as we sleep,
its tides carry us in a wild safety.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Jean Janzen: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.