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The Poet’s Sunrise


An unknown poet wishing to get published decided to enter a contest conducted by a small literary journal. The rules were simple: submit a poem describing the beauty of a sunrise. Payment for the winning entry was a free copy of the journal in which the poem would appear. The poet didn’t care about the insignificant remuneration; he simply wanted others to see his work. He had dozens of journals filled with his poems but had been afraid to share them with others, until now. He was confident his poetry had depth and meaning. He loved working with the language to express himself and often labored over finding the right word or phrase to capture an emotion. He would massage his sentences until they commanded attention, and he finished a poem only when he thought it had a chance of piercing a heart that was aching for beauty.

The first weekend after learning about the contest he rose while a crescent moon still lingered in the dark summer sky and drove to an overlook perched high on a bluff above the Mississippi River. As he followed a winding road to the east-facing overlook he noticed dark, heavy clouds standing on the horizon, and above them were wispy clouds that fanned out like an eagle’s wing. He parked his car, grabbed his journal and walked about 100 yards to a bench that afforded him a wonderful view of the entire river valley. He sat down and felt the coolness of the night-chilled wood beneath him. He opened his journal, readied his pen and waited.

Before long, a faint tint of pink streaked across the thin line of the horizon above the dark trees atop the opposite bluff. The poet watched as it grew brighter and splashed color on the underside of the low cloud bank. He heard a bird flutter and chirp in a nearby tree and turned to see it, unsuccessfully. When he gazed back at the sky it had suddenly lightened into a soft, pastel blue, and the pink feathered out into the translucent clouds above, as if an artist quickly made a wide, sweeping stroke across the sky with a broad brush. The imperceptible change painted the sky with colors of a newborn boy and girl; future man and future woman.

Now the sun broke through to the valley floor and illuminated the green corn standing silent in a field below. It shone upon a yellow gravel road that ran past a white house and a boxy red barn. The poet wondered how many sunrises have shone through the windows of that home announcing a new day, of how many generations have been awaken by the same sun rising over the same bluff. Was it three generations, or four? Maybe more?

He returned his gaze to the sky and was amazed at the sudden change. The clouds were now fiery red and bursting with energy, but the fire quickly turned to embers and then died out. Now, the orange sun began its steady climb and the clouds and sky assumed their summertime hues: white and blue.

The poet was shocked at the transformation and wondered why he hadn’t taken time to experience this miracle more often. Then he heard an ancient poem whispered on the breeze: “The heavens declare the glory of God: the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

He looked at his journal and pondered how he could possibly describe the magnificence of what he’d just experienced. Only two words came to him: thank you. He wrote them down, closed his journal and walked away. No human would see those words, but the bird in the nearby oak tree did and it sang a sweet hymn of praise in the cool morning air.

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