New Year of the Trees – III. Clingstone

I love this stanza. I struggled with this one for a long time, and when it finally clicked together, it was with relief and joy. This was the moment where I felt that this poem was going to work.

If I were to rewrite this stanza in a simple summary, it would be something like the language from Ezekiel 36:26:

26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

The “sacred violence” of the atonement of Christ and his victory over sin and death enables a special, sacred violence for us, wherein our stony hearts are excised and new, living, fleshy hearts are given in their stead as a gift. “Lintels hyssop struck” (Exodus 12:22) connects back to the Passover – the eternal story of deliverance. These concepts will be discussed in below.

clingstone image

Working out the general structure of “Clingstone.” Most of the ideas here ended up in the final version of the stanza, even if the wording didn’t. The line “known and newly new” covers the concept of “humbled, but not debased.” (And I gasped in delight when my mind somehow delivered up the phrase “known and newly new.”) “Light as fetter” ended up in the stanza “Drupelet.” “ex ordinarium” ended up in the stanza “Ficus Carica.” “What hast thou done?” and “Shall not thenceforth yield” were concepts I was considering including – the language is from Genesis 4. I expect that will someday find its way into another poem.

Some terms and their use/meaning in the stanza:

“Clingstone” – This word/title gets to the central point of Ezekiel 36:26 noted above. Per wikipedia:

Clingstone refers to a drupe having a stone which cannot easily be removed from the flesh. The flesh is attached strongly to the stone and must be cut to free the stone.

These fruits have stony hearts that require cutting to free. And what is a drupe? Also per wikipedia:

[A] drupe (or stone fruit) is an indehiscent fruit in which an outer fleshy part … surrounds a single shell (the pit, stone, or pyrene)…. The definitive characteristic of a drupe is that the hard, “lignified” stone (or pit) is derived from the ovary wall of the flower—in an aggregate fruit composed of small, individual drupes (such as a raspberry), each individual is termed a drupelet and may together form a botanic berry.

A later stanza in the poem is called “Drupelet” and references that aggregation or clustering. This definition of “drupe” (“clingstone”) raises the question: what does “indehiscent” mean?

“Indehiscent” – I love this word! Think of this as referring to a stone fruit (in this case) that will not give up its seed/heart. An indehiscent fruit does not have a natural mechanism to do so and requires external – even mechanical – forces to release the pit and the accompanying seed. Scarification (as discussed in the stanza “QED”) is needed to release the stony heart – and in this world we find “scarification of every kind.”

“Halve and hold unyielding skin with hearthstone culled” – There is one overall meaning here – The indehiscent fruit has had its flesh parted, and its stony pit removed.

There are also two plays on words here. One of these is “halve and hold,” which sounds like “have and hold,” a phrase used in some wedding ceremonies (“to have and to hold”) – that reminds of both Christ as the Bridegroom (Matthew 22:1-14 and Revelation 19:5-9) , and also the intimacy of the act of having our hearts made new in Christ. “Halve and hold” using the word “halve” references the splitting of the drupe to expose the stony heart – imagine “halving” a fruit.

“Hearthstone culled” is the other play on words – it sounds like “hearthstone cold” – “culling” is removal, and the old/”cold” stony heart is removed from us, that hearthstone (heart stone) that offered neither heat nor light. That idea continues…

“This flinty seed, lintels hyssop struck, of sacred violence o’er thrown” – That “flinty seed,” that hearthstone cold, had to be removed by “sacred violence” so our hearts can be made flesh. From Ezekiel 36:

25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

The “sacred violence” refers to Christ’s suffering for us, and also his artful and compassionate removal and renewal of our stony hearts – those “flinty seeds.” The “lintels hyssop struck” refers to the Passover, specifically here in Exodus 12: 21-22:

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.

22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.

That story of deliverance lives again in each of us as we experience this transformation personally. And as the stanza”Chadash” reminds us, there is a requirement to always remember and always observe and always memorialize our deliverance. That is essential to our offerings remaining acceptable.

“without the gate” – this is essentially the etymology of the word “Profane:” outside the temple. Our hearts / clingstones were once profane, or grown without the temple gates – and are now grown within the walls of temple.

“fish for serpent, flesh for stone” – I love this stanza, and I love this line and the next. (As an aside, even though I wrote it, I love this line and this stanza – when I’m struggling over an idea or phrasing and the idea finally comes clear and the wording comes from wherever it comes, I’m as surprised as anyone by it. The first time someone reads this, I hope it feels like a revelation to them as much as the wording did when it came to me. It’s one of the things I most love about starting to write a new poem – I don’t know what I’m going to see, learn, or feel along the way, even when I have a starting idea, phrase, or outline. It’s an adventure to write, and I hope it also is to read. Anyway….)

This line references both Matthew 7:7-11 and Ezekiel 36:26. Here’s the Matthew 7 (boldface added):

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

The Ezekiel verse references being given a heart of flesh for our heart of stone. Combining Matthew and Ezekiel into this stanza, you have “fish for serpent” (Matthew 7) and “flesh for stone” (Ezekiel 36, Matthew 7). These are the great gifts from a “Father which is in heaven” who “[gives] good things to them that ask him.”

“known and newly new” – I contemplated how much sexual imagery to use in this stanza. The intimacy of splitting the skin of the fruit to expose the stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh could be written with varying degrees of sexual imagery. Some of my earlier drafts included words like “yielding,” “benevolence” (the euphemism of 1 Corinthians 7), “piercing” (with sexual overtones as well as recollection of the crucifixion), and others. In the end, the physical intimacy of this spiritual renewal and change remains with the phrases “unyielding skin” and “halve and hold” – and then this: “known and newly new.” I had the idea written originally in my draft as including this concept “humbled, but not debased.” We have physically and spiritually surrendered – and we experience “conversion” or transformation from stone to flesh – and thereby become known and new. 1 Corinthians 13:12: “…then shall I know even as also I am known.”



Next up:

IV. Shiv’at HaMinim


Jump to any part of the annotation here (including directly to the stanza by stanza descriptions):

  1. The conceptual outline of the poem, generally
  2. The basic layout, in reference to the concept of the jubilee.
  3. The use of the word “selah”
  4. The sets of sevens
  5. A stanza by stanza review of some of what it all means 

    Links to the stanzas for their individual “behind the scenes”:

    I. Modus Operandi

    II. Chadash

    III. Clingstone

    IV. Shiv’at HaMinim

    V. Drupelet

    VI. Ficus Carica

    VII. QED