Those loaves and fish were mine

A while back, in my hundredth post, I shared some writerly goals. The first? Write more poetry. Now, I’m not always great about following through, but when a line popped into my head and tumbled around for a few days, I knew I couldn’t resist the urge.

Last Friday’s Gospel was John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, which precedes his beautifully profound Bread of Life Discourse. As I prayerfully read and reread the Gospel that day, I was struck by a small detail which I’d always overlooked: the boy. There was a boy with five barley loaves and two fish, a boy who gave up his food, food that became the raw material for Jesus’ miracle. For the satiation of the crowd. Scripture, as the inspired word of God, contains no unimportant detail. I was intrigued at the thought of this boy’s identity, his story, his reaction to the scene. I wondered about his age, why he had the bread and fish, what he thought of Jesus. And the line that I just couldn’t shake? Those loaves and fish were mine.

So, I grabbed hold of those six simple syllables, and here’s what resulted:

Those loaves and fish were mine

I’d bought them for our dinner

And now they’re being passed

By saintly men to sinners

That one, Andrew, asked me

If I’d give up my bread

Not take it home to eat—

No, feed hungry crowds instead

The man, Jesus it was,

Took it and gave thanks

He multiplied those scraps

Like flooded river banks.

The baskets passed around

Till all had had their fill

Not one man overlooked,

Twelve wicker baskets still.

Him, the Prophet—could it be?

The one who’s come to save?

And now I see the truth:

It’s him, not me, who gave.

There, I did it. Wrote it and shared it. Both uncomfortable, the latter surely more so, but so very worth it. It’s unpolished. The irregular syllable count gets to me. But the experience of writing it, of turning over the words and lines and images in my mind, and of now reading and rereading it, is a prayerful, revelatory one.

I know I’m just an amateur, but I marvel at the experience of poetry writing. I’m in awe of the way that first line stubborn stuck in my head. Of the beautiful, paradoxical freedom to be found in meter and form and rhyme. Of the chance to stand in the place of someone I’d never considered before, never even really noticed. Every poem I’ve written has surprised me, has taken me to a place I didn’t expect, couldn’t have foreseen. It’s a wonder.

And what I’m now most delighted by is the last line. It’s him, not me, who gave. In so many ways, this is true. It was him, I must believe, who gave me that line. It’s him who invited me to spend time with him in prayer that day and every day. It’s not my time I’m giving, not really—it’s all his gift. Everything I give to him I’ve first received from him. An even greater wonder.

So, I’ll continue to look for ways to give. I’ll try (and fail, certainly) to be generous, to remember his mercy, to trust that he’ll satisfy my hungry heart. One loaf and fish and line at a time.




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