Death Surrounds; Redemption Found!

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by Raymond Harris

 
Poetry
Poetry is something that I do not often write, but I do so much enjoy musical lyrics. So, the motif of this lyrical arrangement is one that begins low and ends high – starting heavy laden with grief, then pulling up and ending with hope. Life sometimes, perhaps many times, cannot be addressed as poignantly from theological dialogue as it can through poetry and song. Both poetry and music have an ability to strum the heart strings in ways that theological discussion just misses.

While this deep low of the lyrical arrangement is one that I have felt very personally, only hitting the topic of such deep grief and despair leaves my heart needing more. As a believer in YHWH and Yeshua, despair does not seem to be a place that they allow one to remain – they provide hope, an answer to anguish. Yet, life certainly has anguish and suffering.

The thought of despair has occupied my mind and my heart much over the last year. This lyrical arrangement is my way of expressing that despair, but realizing that God’s Spirit, his “pneuma” (nooma) is “air” itself. If despair is the lack of “air”, then God, who is spirit (John 4.24), gives life-sustaining “air” when His Spirit fills the lungs of the soul.

Since the poem focuses on God’s ability to deliver, I gave the poem a formal chiastic structureW, utilizing the poetic pattern found in many of the Psalms. This type of structure probably is not too common for us, but it was very common for the Bible writers, even Paul is known to have used chaistic structureW. The center of the ChiasmusW is the line: “Infamy sin, Final ruin.” the poem works down to this level, then works out from it reversing the thoughts and motif. It works!

Now for the poem. For those interested, following the poem, I will give a mechanical breakdown.

 
Death Surrounds; Redemption Found!


Neck deep despair, Taking my air!

Crushing my chest, Heavy like a vest.

Can’t let me breathe. Can I only seethe?

Much suffering, Death it brings me.

Life is short, Life seems vain.

What do I gain Of so much pain?

When death surrounds, Hopelessness abounds.

My Desperation. Deprivation. Suffocation.

Death, let me be. Hate, anguish, I!
Left alone on the curb side, die!

Infamy sin, Final ruin.

El Shaddai Hear my cry!
All Mighty Hear my cry!

Emancipation. Liberation. My declaration.

Great hallowed ground, Redemption found.

Emotional gain, My physical grain.

Life sustained, Life import.

Life it brings me, Much comforting.

I do not seethe, Able to breathe.

His Spirit gives zest, Beautiful rest.

Fills me with air! Removes all despair.

 
The Mechanical Breakdown
The following reveals the way in which the chiastic structureW is formulated. The manner in which I line up the corresponding lines is AB…J…B’A’.
Line A is the beginning thought of the poem.
Line B is the second thought of the poem.
Line J is the tenth and center thought of the poem, having worked our way down from Line A.
Line B’ is the next to last thought of the poem and corresponds with Line B.
Line A’ is the last thought of the poem and corresponds with Line A.


A-Neck deep despair, Taking my air!

  B-Crushing my chest, Heavy like a vest.

    C-Can’t let me breathe. Can I only seethe?

      D-Much suffering, Death it brings me.

        E-Life is short, Life seems vain.

          F-What do I gain Of so much pain?

            G-When death surrounds, Hopelessness abounds.

              H-My Desperation. Deprivation. Suffocation.

                I-Death, let me be. Hate, anguish, I!
                   Left alone on the curb side, die!

                      J-Infamy sin, Final ruin.

                    El Shaddai Hear my cry!
                I’-All Mighty Hear my cry!

              H’-Emancipation. Liberation. My declaration.

            G’-Great hallowed ground, Redemption found.

          F’-Emotional gain, My physical grain.

        E’-Life sustained, Life import.

      D’-Life it brings me, Much comforting.

    C’-I do not seethe, Able to breathe.

  B’-His Spirit gives zest, Beautiful rest.

A’-Fills me with air! Removes all despair.

What Is a Chiastic Poem?
In the development of this poem, I had all corresponding lines match in rhyme (e.g. Line A and Line A’), yet not all corresponding lines necessarily match in syllables (e.g. Line B and Line B’).

Rhyming Lines and matching syllables may or may not be the organization of Biblical chiastic poetry. However, what the “prime lines” (e.g. Line C’) do, which is similar to Biblical chiastic poetry, is to provide the counter theme against the opening line (e.g. Line C), where the opening line (e.g. Line C) provides the despair motif, and the prime line (e.g. Line C’) provides God’s relief, as seen here:

     C-Can’t let me breathe. Can I only seethe?
     C’-I do not seethe, Able to breathe.

This simply means that:

Line C Part 1: “Can’t let me breathe.” is negated by Line C’ Part 2: “Able to breathe.”
Line C Part 2: “Can I only seethe?” is negated by Line C’ Part 1: “I do not seethe.”

While that is true dynamically, in order to visually see the Chiastic structure,
draw a diagonal from Line C Part 1 down toward Line C’ Part 2
and
draw a diagonal from Line C Part 2 down toward Line C’ Part 1
the lines cross forming the English letter “X” but this arrangement originally formed the Greek letter “χ” (“Chi”) – which gives us the word “Chiasmus” as seen in the following chart:

Neck deep despair,
Taking my air!
X
Fills me with air!
Removes all despair.

It is the formation of the Greek letter “χ” and the English “X” that gives the visual representation for the word “Chiasmus”, but Chiastic poetry is more than this. It is also a Chiastic structure because of this arrangement: ABC…CBA. The pattern of this poem is: ABCDEFGHI J IHGFEDCBA.

I separated out Line J because Line J is the central point of the chiastic structure, only at the point of recognizing the infamy of sin, its final ruin does one turn to God, then God provides the relief one seeks. Thus Line J “Infamy sin, Final ruin.” stands alone having no need for a corresponding J’. This is because Line J is the center (the focal point) of the poem. From Line J, I want myself and the reader to move beyond despair to breathe the air, the pneuma (nooma) of God which is only attained when the soul cries out to God, El Shaddai, All Mighty.

The following list simply puts the corresponding lines together, with Line J appearing at the end. I did this in order to more easily reveal how the thoughts work together.

A-Neck deep despair, Taking my air!
A’-Fills me with air! Removes all despair.

B-Crushing my chest, Heavy like a vest.
B’-His Spirit gives zest, Beautiful rest.

C-Can’t let me breathe. Can I only seethe?
C’-I do not seethe, Able to breathe.

D-Much suffering, Death it brings me.
D’-Life it brings me, Much comforting.

E-Life is short, Life seems vain.
E’-Life sustained, Life import.

F-What do I gain Of so much pain?
F’-Emotional gain, My physical grain.

G-When death surrounds, Hopelessness abounds.
G’-Great hallowed ground, Redemption found.

H-My Desperation. Deprivation. Suffocation.
H’-Emancipation. Liberation. My declaration.

I-Death, let me be. Hate, anguish, I!
   Left alone on the curb side, die!
   El Shaddai Hear my cry!
I’-All Mighty Hear my cry!

J-Infamy sin, Final ruin.

The following chart reveals the extent to which I did attempt to have the number of syllables mostly match, at least per line. What is interesting is that not all lines have two parts, Line H has three parts, but recognize that Line H’ matches in theme, but works backward on the theme of Line H where:
  Line H Part 3 (Suffocation) is negated by Line H’ Part 1 (Emancipation),
  Line H Part 2 (Deprivation) is negated by Line H’ Part 2 (Liberation), and
  Line H Part 1 (My Desperation) is negated by Line H’ Part 3 (My Declaration).

The following table shows the total number of syllables for each line, but I hope that the poem and the explanation have been an encouragement. If you feel that this has been helpful in some way, I’d like you to let me know by clicking the links following the chart.

Line
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Total Number
A
Neck deep de-spair,
Tak-ing my air!
8
B
Crush-ing my chest,
Heavy like a vest.
8
C
Can’t let me breathe.
Can I only seethe?
8
D
Much suf-fer-ing,
Death it brings me.
8
E
Life is short,
Life seems vain.
6
F
What do I gain
Of so much pain?
8
G
When death sur-rounds,
Hope-less-ness abounds.
8
H
My Des-pe-ra-tion.
De-pri-va-tion.
Suf-fo-ca-tion.
13
I
Death, let me be.
Hate, an-guish, I!
8
Left a-lone on
the curb side, die!
8
J
In-fa-my sin,
Fi-nal ru-in.
8
I’
El Shad-dai
Hear my cry!
6
All Migh-ty
Hear my cry!
6
H’
E-man-ci-pa-tion.
Lib-er-a-tion.
My dec-la-ra-tion.
14
G’
Great hal-lowed ground,
Re-demp-tion found.
8
F’
E-mo-tion-al gain,
My phys-i-cal grain.
10
E’
Life sus-tained,
Life im-port.
6
D’
Life it brings me,
Much com-fort-ing.
8
C’
I do not seethe,
A-ble to breathe.
8
B’
His Spir-it gives zest,
Beau-ti-ful rest.
9
A’
Fills me with air!
Re-moves all de-spair.
8

 
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