Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eugene England: "Two Trains and a Dream"

Note: I've decided to carry on with my Mormon Poetry Project, though it'll be a once a week venture from here on out. While April's everyday posting was fun, it burned me out. So I think once a week will be a happy medium and it'll keep me invested in my interest in Mormon poetry.

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I've had Eugene England on my mind a bit lately and thought it would be fitting turn over this new poetry leaf with one of his poems that was published in Dialogue shortly after he passed on: "Two Trains and a Dream." While it's not a striking poetic achievement, it does capture what is, for me, the central concern of his life and work: the paradoxical complexities of God's relationship with his children and the dialogue the faithful enter into with God as they rove through his creations with an insatiable curiosity.

With a style that's a far cry from his formalist training---the lines are loose and long and prose-like, such that the poem almost reads as a micro-essay (the essay being England's true writerly calling, I believe)---he explores the apparent arbitrariness of God's decisions to save some from danger (as Joseph F. Smith from a train accident) and to allow others to die (as a mother and her children all killed by a train). Then, in his relation of a dream, he shows us the weeping God of Mormonism, an intimate, compassionate God who sits so near his children, who listens to them so intently that he weeps over their pain, over the hand of his justice as it holds all of us in its inescapable grasp, to the blessing of some, the cursing of others.

And so he shows us the intimate connection between God's justice and mercy, the interaction of which pulls blood from every one of his deep pores, blood which, in turn, washes those who come to him with their questions, their struggles, their wonder, into his presence, into his eternal likeness. But only as we truly learn to come to him, to see him as he is. Such is the quest of mortality. Such was the quest, I believe, of Eugene England's life and work.