Joshua Sutherland Allen

Joshua Sutherland Allen

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Each day we complete a banal and sacred ritual,
A domestic compline in our homely chapel:
A bath, not baptism, but holy cleansing,
A Eucharistic meal of fruit and water,
Sacred readings not of Gospel or Quran,
But of Dr. Seuss and Chicken Little,
And a divine touch more solemn
Than that by which the hemorrhaging woman
Brushed the garment of Christ
And became whole.
A small hand, innocent of worldly ugliness,
Pure and unblemished by wrinkles,
Yet gnarled and chafed
From over-zealous nail biting:
I take it in mine, and I am complete,
I know love, and I comprehend grace.
Sitting by my child’s bed at night,
Reading her a story,
Listening outside her door as she finishes her bath,
Holding her hand as she falls asleep,
We enact a holy rite.

Chafed hands and bitten nails
Are a strange sort of sacrament,
Not unlike baptism in uncomfortably cold water,
A wedding where the cake never arrives,
Or the Body of Christ present in stale bread:
Divine mysteries manifest in fallible, human constructs.
But I like things that are human;
I’m happy with the marred and incomplete.
The sacred liturgies, even the Holy Gospel itself,
Set forth the way I learned it as a child,
With its flawless, Elizabethan cadence
And its majestic prose,
Is not quite so awesome
As my child’s small voice, reading to me about Rover.
Light-filled corridors infused with incense and statuary,
Are not quite as sacred
As my child’s rickety bedside.
When Thomas touched the hands and side of his Lord,
He could not have been more inspired
Than I am, when I hold my child’s slight hands in mine.
I cannot know if God or heaven are real,
But Paradise is in the gentle touch
She and I share each night.
There is no need for transcendent glory
When we perceive the immanent splendor
Of sacred touch
And mundane rites of human life.


  1. So incredibly moving and true. These are the fleeting moments of your child's childhood. They go oh so quickly. Cherish them as you are for they are as sacred as you believe them to be. So exquisitely written :-)

  2. But Paradise is in the gentle touch
    She and I share each night.

    Such a beautiful & romantic perspective :D

  3. This is so touching.. a parent with a child could it be better. There is no coincidence that religion often use that to describe the special love we should feel.. but it's hard to make it closer than the real touch of a warm hand.

  4. Oh this touched my heart and went right through to my soul...this sweet song of love from a parent.....such sweet words.....

    'I cannot know if God or heaven are real,
    But Paradise is in the gentle touch
    She and I share each night.'

  5. A touching poem, so many lines that I love

  6. Joshua, it is wonderful to see you in the Pantry again. That child's small, trusting hand with the bitten nails, has found a safe place to rest, in you, my friend. This poem is the most beautiful prayer, as you share those holy moments as she goes off to sleep, safe in your care.

  7. Well written ! Yes, to your question... and answer.

  8. Awesome. You expessed what is in my thoughts so well.

  9. "I’m happy with the marred and incomplete" ... absolutely!! Beautifully written Joshua,..