Oct/Nov 2018 Salon

My Sophia

by Stanley Jenkins

Public domain image adapted by Tom Dooley

The Lord created me [Sophia, Wisdom] at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world's first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
         —Proverbs 8:22-31


When In the Course of Human Events

When the wave had crested, before the onslaught of the next, and all naivety had been swamped—there was yet, innocence. Not merely original nor copy. Just insistent, against all odds, and corruption.

Lady Liberty, making them clutch their pearls again. And clench their assholes tight. The tyranny of the continent. That the conscripted drab might know their glamor in an instant. And be beautiful.

And that's the thing. They are. Beautiful.

We are. Beautiful.

Clenched. And pinched. And so goddamn ugly and small. Each and everyone of us lost and sought. And yet, not only that. But also. Beautiful. And with no more time to kill. We have no more time to kill.

It is the time of the shofar, Lady Liberty. It it time to set sail.


The Lady Settles

The other thing about the lady. I mean. And absence is also always a presence. Her love was always spark-raising-bracing.

Steel-booted rock climbing on a blown-glass mountain.

Or maybe it was. Just love.

Either way. Invisible insulation-glass-shards pierced skin, and blood flowed, from
time to time, and had to be stopped.

It became tedious to bleed.

But love is tedious, too. Isn't it? And that's the thing about the lady. She isn't ever going to let you stop caring. Or bleeding. Leastaways, because you are bored. No, sir.

As long as that alarm is going to go off in the morning.

I mean.




Some people are bad liars,
         And it's either, because truth matters,
                  Or because they are weak.

Or maybe, it's both.
         In any case, there is something pressing down on me.
                  I am in a thin place.
                           my limbs reach,
                                    and I feel the elasticity of the resistance.

I have popped dying birthday balloons before.
         And some of them were yellow.

And it's not as if my self were ever anything more than a negotiation.

(Just my luck: To be born again is to know that you are dying.)

Makes you wonder just what strength could look like,
         When you can only know it—
                  As weakness?

(Thanks a lot, Jesus!)

Maybe you never get to where you are going,
         Just die in your boots,
                  And that is the same thing—

As arriving.

But the Lady
         (she is clothed in the sun!)
                  has been giving me the eye.

And I could drown in all this longing.
         And would willingly shatter,

If I could only...

         But, if you
                  want to know
                           the truth,

         I don't,


         I sway.


My Sophia

When we went to bed, we stripped ourselves of the years and were naked like seals. I wanted to make honking noises, but restrained myself. Sometimes, you work your way back to innocence.

Your hip was electric, and the only thing that saved me, was the elastic lip that traversed your belly.

Your kiss was like the entrance of clowns, brazen and bold, grotesque and dangerous.

You have been the consort of the Ancient of Days. Present at the birth of the Cosmos. You were dance before there was dance.

And now, you are the joy of clean sheets and naked legs.

You are the license to be undone. The authority to be lawless. The gravity of kindness—and the drunken boat of holiness.

My Sophia, your divinity is revealed in your hunger to be touched.

And I am undone in your hooded wisdom at the gate.



Jesus was a heretic, but it does not follow that all heresies are divine. I mean, there are heresies and then there are heresies. Am I right?

Still, I have burned, and been consumed, and not consumed, with Jesus, since I was a little boy, much too young to even understand that I didn't understand.

Innocence is earned. And even that is a lie.

(My Sophia, I knew everything and nothing—on that night the freighters carried ore down from the Mesabi Range. But I am no fool. I know who you are. And I will sin boldly, in this land of the iron sky.)

But let's cut to the chase. Can I tell you a secret, Dear Reader? There is nothing but the great love. And it consumes all. And it is all.

And can you believe it? This is how it turns out, in the all?

But let it be heard this day, I would breach this tomb, Sweet Wisdom, my Dear Sophia, to be your Wonderful Cliche, on any day of the week.

That is, any day ending in "y"!

Anybody? Anybody?


I am your fool for life.



Ms. Artemis—not Sophia—went out one morning to kill the deer. And the hart panted in ecstasy in the moment of death. It was intense. And she did not once betray the kiss with a smile.

I watched from the bleachers—my naked chest painted in the colors of some Midwestern university. And still, she was not revealed.

I have, with impunity, made love to ghosts my entire life, and am not entirely sure what to make of such flesh.

But what walks. But what walks.

And all that sings, sings:

It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing.

In the cheap seats, with the cigarette girls and the men of valor.

And Ms. Artemis draws her bow.


American Girl

All of Emerson's children were orphans. This Self-Reliance is going to kill us all.

Nevermind, I have long since returned my water to the ocean with a spurt. And am now eager to discover what remains.

The goddesses and the gods, they are on display on the promenade. They provide forms for desires that are no longer ancient. And are infinitely available in syndication.

While all the while, Sophia lays down, in meadow bowers, in Michigan, and asks me only to kiss her.

I owe nothing to the gods of spectacle.

I stretch my arms wide, and the iron doors of River Rouge furnaces open everywhere, revealing ladders. And I am left in laughter, and flame, and the awareness of just how funny it is, that I would even think I had a choice, about whether or not, I would climb.

As I burn.

But Grace abounds, and she slips beneath the tide of images, and disappears.

Only to return in the morning. Cock-a-doodle-doo. Pregnant with possibilities and hope. And Faygo Red Pop.

My Sophia rows across the harbor, toward open seas.

         And my longing makes me join her. A reach made tactile.

                  Always on the ferry, always on our way.

                           To Boblo Island,

                                    And all the places we dreamed of,

When we were nineteen.


You Speak Your Name

I knew this lady once and she wore a veil. It was the 80's. And anyone who lifted the veil, perhaps to kiss her, or maybe just to look in her eyes, upon seeing her face, would die.

She wasn't from around here.

Even today, I couldn't swear that she existed. But I have never approached a lady since, without a certain apprehension.

Sophia wears three faces. Just one more Holy Trinity.

But she is more than that. My Sophia. I have tracked her endlessly to the hobo jungles on the outskirts of town. And I have eaten Mulligan Stew, and been undone, and unfurled and released, from the tyranny of form, and propriety, and danced with her, without name, or fig leaf, in all the forgotten and in-between places. She has been my best gal.

But still, she is not here now without your flesh, or your brokenness or your lips, or your fire. She requires the inevitability of your death. And the genius of your finitude. My meadowlark.

Jesus is not incarnate once, but in every breath, of every living being—and in the silent scream of stones. This trembling flesh. This moment of awe, and marvels, and great courage. God wanted to be here, in us, enfleshed, embodied.

And so, this is my body, given to you. And this is your body given to me. And God praises God when we have the wherewithal to delight in one another. To take. Eat. And receive what is given.

Sophia speaks, and my meadowlark is born. My meadowlark is born, and Sophia speaks.

But this, too, is true: after the lady in the veil, after so much time, I stir again, in my tomb, at the sound of your voice, speaking your own name.


Joslin Lake

I was sitting on the dock of the bay, smelling the salt water and the echos of dead souls. You were very much in my thoughts. I loved New York City like a woman.

I was displaced for a time and could not find my bearings. There is a hum to death, and it is very close to life, but I wanted melody before harmony.

And Detroit woke up—or better, I woke up—and, much to my surprise, she knew my name.

I am lost in coordinates. I am adrift in tides I do not understand. In the land of the Great Lakes. Without tides.

But here's the thing, I have longed for you on the shores of Joslin Lake. And I have said goodbye to you forever. And you broke my heart on the shores of Joslin Lake.

But now, in these latter days, I have walked on the waves of Joslin Lake—I have walked on the waters—and I have come back to life on the shores of Joslin Lake.

And I am fierce. And I am not afraid. And I have no alibi. And I have no excuse.

I am just walking on this water. And I have come to claim what was lost. And I am coming for you.

On Joslin Lake.


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