Poetry by Paul Hamill: Snow Sermon
When Shadrach left the furnace
All Babylon was ablaze,
Terrible and brilliant light
Slashing and clawing from walls
Of yellow brick, from palm fronds,
From the high sun that echoed
Jubilation. The shafts leaped
Down like beasts exalting in
Destruction, yet also like
Desire. His wife had begged him
To bank his faith. In her eyes, coals
Were blown white by joy. Children
Hugged his thighs, their innocence
Like a licking, harmless fire.
He stumbled to wash soot off
At the river bank: the waves
Passed like an oven’s pulsing.
A wall of friends danced and roared,
Their faces burning with awe.
Driving uphill to work on
A morning dusted with snow,
I see I am addicted
To transience, pleasure kindled
At glistening weathered clapboards
And white on tin and asphalt
As thin and evanescent
As if a cold light shone through.
I passed the old broken tree
Whose second growth of branches
Made it seem woolly, gaily
Transformed to a nest of rays.
The blue sky was enameled
By the brightness spread beneath.
Glimpsing, I wanted to live
By the gleam of the furnace light
Behind the wakened clapboards:
The unbearable searing,
The ecstatic veiled in snow,
The world consuming itself.
“When I heard the Dalai Lama would be appearing at the College, I recalled Buddha’s great Fire Sermon, which says that all of existence is afire, impermanent; that brought to mind the bible story of Shadrach and his friends, who were thrown into the fiery furnace but walked out unscathed. I wondered what it would be like to see everything around you burning, while carrying on ordinary life.” —Paul Hamill
Former IC associate provost Paul Hamill is Ithaca College’s director of academic funding and special programs, and the current Tompkins County poet laureate. His published works include narratives, meditations, monologues, and poetry collections. He is the parent of Stephen Hamill ’98 and Katie Hamill ’05 and stepparent of Christopher Colongeli ’03. In this issue he has another poem, "The Students of Dissection Praise the Donors of Bodies."