Decades ago, the leader of my writing group posed a question: “How did you fall in love with writing?” As I thought about it, I realized that a love of writing didn’t come first. Before that, I fell in love with the sound of words. Because of the songs my grandfather sang and the poems he recited, I learned to savor and treasure words.
In honor of his love of poetry, I wrote a poem that night, expressing gratitude for the gift Granddad had given me. Some of the words from that poem, “A Mighty Man Was He,” written so long ago, found their way into the devotion based on Psalm 119.
When reading the psalm, I found a word I hadn’t noticed before: unfolding. It struck me as gift-like. How much like a treasured gift is God’s word! I immediately thought of Granddad. He’d given me the gift of loving words. And that gift had taught me to treasure the word of God.
“A Mighty Man Was He”*
Granddad was a quiet man,
but the poems he loved
were meant to be spoken;
he couldn’t hold them back.
They came in snatches as he walked or drove,
full length in the evenings when the cicadas hummed
and we rocked in the glider on the screened porch.
I’d snuggle next to him,
my cheek against his flannel shirt
softened by years of wear,
his gray whiskers scratching my forehead.
He smelled of outdoors and talcum powder
masking a hint of body odor that wouldn’t be washed away
until his Saturday night bath—
more working man than poet.
But if I was quiet long enough,
he’d unfold his words slowly—
a connoisseur reveling in their rhythm.
His voice would grow with the stories
and I would labor with the village smithy
under the spreading chestnut tree,
convinced that the mighty man
was Granddad himself,
or stomp my spurred boots with Paul Revere,
impatient for our midnight ride.
With my head on Granddad’s chest,
his voice rumbling in my ear,
I heard the music of poetry in every sonorous word,
felt its beat in the rhythm of his heart,
and knew its power
in his arms.
*Title comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Village Blacksmith.”