Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Dry Bones

Dry Bones

By Edwin Thumboo

Here the Sun’s hot rays decree again a
Purgatorial valley sequestering remnants,
Heaped like shards, as if they never lived,
Or lifted eyes of pledging to the Lord
Their heart’s first waking beat. Instead
These disarranged, sad-mute generations. 
No order, no touch of angelic wings
Marked their passing. Only emptying.

I saw the Shekina in all glory leave
The Temple, rise to Mt of Olives. God
Who dwells absolute, perfect essence,
Comforter, radiance, forgiving presence,
Whose love we strive against ourselves,
Ingain and keep, judged, left us exiled
In the land he gave our faithful Fathers.
We sinned within corroding sin.

Lord you raised your hand, called out Son
Of Man, leading me, Ezekiel, back to forth
That great soaring vision: a nation’s bleached
Resolve. I don’t tremble. No. You punish
Out of love. But surely unruly endgamers
Had faces, joy, anger; care above self; good
Husbandry though self-maimed, gradually
Dead in a dying land. I am partly them,


You re-arrange, exchange death for life:
Behold, I will cause breath to enter you,
and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews
upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you,
and cover you with skin, and put breath
in you, and ye shall live; and ye
shall know that I am the Lord¹… 

A gathering future, waiting since before

The foundation of the world.

Across the valley skulls nod; jaws click.
Unknown, unlamented, my bones return.
Flesh of my flesh. See my skin grow tight
In sunlight. I gather, God, to our nation,
Forgiven in extremis; free of rot and fester.
We return; singing winds celebrate re-creation,
Beautiful beyond our praise, our dreaming,
Ever divine, out of love, not dust, not rib;

A second Genesis for the whole house Israel
Filled by the Holy Spirit. Restored, glorified,
A single kingdom, for the one Shepherd.
As two sticks unite, so be armed by love.
Follow the Lord’s statutes and ordinances,
For he has brought us into his gifted land
Of milk and honey, sparkling waters, quiet green,
To thrive the wholeness of His purpose.


¹Ezekiel 37:5-6


Edwin Thumboo

Edwin Thumboo is one of the pioneers of modern Singapore poetry in English. He is Emeritus Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore, and was the recipient of Singapore’s first Cultural Medallion in 1979; he has also received the S.E.A. Write Award, the ASEAN Cultural and Communication Award in Literature, the Raja Rao Award for contributions to the literature of the Indian Diaspora, and the Public Service Medal. A Fellow of the Iowa International Writing Program, his sixth book of poems is Still Travelling (Ethos Books). A showcase of his poetic oeuvre is The Best of Edwin Thumboo (Epigram).

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