men who claimed to know the Word of God
and where it lay took me to stand above
a valley of dry bones.
they taunted me: here is no life
for you! you may as well
curl yourself among them, and return
and so i did.
the bones murmured beneath me, shifted
to make room – they did not pierce
my skin as i’d presumed.
i took one fragment, then another that
and held them close to my heart,
and listened to their clinking lullaby
waiting to die.
but i did not.
instead a Breath whirled round
me and trans-
those dead dry bones into
full flesh and blood – muscle and sinew
and skin, and chests that moved
atop their resurrected hearts and lungs!
i thrilled to see
these dead dry bones become
a throng of those they claimed
did not belong…
the Breath that animated
all those forms
did not pass over me –
my flesh grew warm
as eerie but invigorating song
stripped me down to my bones
and built me up again –
i strode up to those men
who could not see
the breath of God in me
piles of dry bones
i worship the God
of ever-reinvented life!
you shoved your book at me
and claimed the word it held for me
was Condemnation – well,
i took that book and read it
through and through
with God’s breath warming the ink
and i found
and – if you could just
embrace it too –
This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. This is an updated version of a poem that appears in their published volume The Kin(g)dom in the Rubble. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at email@example.com for that permission, or just to chat!
About this poem:
Ezekiel 37’s valley of dry bones has long been near and dear to my queer heart. It was the lectionary reading a couple weeks ago, and Austen Hartke did a live study of it on his YouTube channel, which brought the passage back into the forefront of my mind.
Scripture is presented to many of us as dead dry bones, lifeless pages set in stone — but that belies the Breath of God rifling through those pages, and expanding our own lungs…
In this time of epidemic, when we face a virus that can steal our very breath, i cherish more than ever that unquellable Breath of God.
The poem in these images first appeared in my collection of poetry, The Kin-dom in the Rubble. But i’ve revised it here — and added a few extra lines at the end, to remind me that while God’s Breath IS for me and NO ONE can steal it from my lungs — it’s for those who hurt me, too.