A Conversation with Henry: New Erasures (2)

(Note: Scroll to the end of this brief blog post to view the three new erasures.)____________________________________________________________________

“This is primarily religious material,” said Henry to the poet painting over him.

Henry, my friend, I am not without spiritual interests. Try to listen to what I’m saying from you. After all, these are your words, too.

“But you should not obscure nor subvert the spirit in my language!” and, in a moment of profound pedagogy, he shakes his finger at me from under a stroke of scarlet lake. “Oh, you can turn my chin into a feather and you can use my psalms to denounce institutions, but you are not going to second coat me before I’m done defending…”

I know he’s waiting for me on the next page, and gold is so sexy painted over red.


Sometimes I feel bad for painting over Henry van Dyke and for making him say things with which he might not agree. But this is actually the way I talk with him; it’s not my intention to negate his work. And, mostly, because Henry’s language will not relinquish the subject of his passion, most of the erasures I have made from Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land: Impressions of Travel in Body and Spirit are poems of spiritual thought.

Two weeks ago, my spiritual conversation with Henry in words and pictures was picked up as a feature on the WordPress Religion page.

That was fun. There is an undeniable, pleasurable feeling in response to brief moments of external appreciation. Henry was a truly, worldly successful writer and lecturer. I wonder how he felt about the dichotomy between Christ’s call to poverty and humility and the external praise he so openly sought…and fretted about? I feel fine, lovely, thankful for any means by which to share what I love to do, but I imagine the success most writers dream of sometimes troubled him. Interesting.

What I find intriguing about the feature is that my work, which poked at the ruin-that-is-religion, should be posted beside the work of ministers and seminarians. Henry would be happy, I think, to know that he still stands on his cherished platform, in context with ideas of belief. And I believe it is still the strength of his spiritual commitment—embodied by his beautiful language—that speaks so clearly to me of matters of the soul.

I am chipping away at him and his iron clad tableau little by little. And Henry, for his part, is still a fine friend with whom to soul-travel.

An Erasure from Henry van Dyke's "Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land: Impressions of Travel in Body and Spirit"

O Soul, / who interprets / my wandering stars, / I join myself to discuss / solitude together, / to make rich / the labours of sleep.

Erasure from Henry van Dyke's "Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land: Impressions of Travel in Body and Spirit"

Changed, / bewildered, / dissolved, my heart / here / longing is immortal.

An erasure from Henry van Dyke's "Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land: Impressions of Travel in Body and Spirit"

All deep rivers / remember the land, / a spirit of place, / the green wheat / in prayer to the moon.


About metonymicalpen

I earned an M.F.A. from Goddard College in 2013. Since then, my work has received the 2013 Beacon Street Prize in Short Fiction and the 2014 John Steinbeck Short Fiction Award. My stories have appeared in REED, reDivider, The Concho River Review, Sou'wester, Moon City Review, and elsewhere. Currently, I live in the desert with my family , but I am trying to move us closer to water. We need an ocean to float all of our ideas.
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2 Responses to A Conversation with Henry: New Erasures (2)

  1. oh so lovely….I especially love the last one…..

    You are amazing.

  2. Susan Lynch says:

    Henry is secretly pleased. These are exquisite. All three. I really think gallery show. Seattle? Yeah, with Rebecca Brown’s endorsement. Yep. That’s it. Showcase in the Pacific Northwest and see if you all like it here for real

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