Poetry: Elijah at Brook Cherith

Elijah in the Desert (detail). Oil on canvas. Washington Allston, 1818. — Washington Allston/ Wikimedia Commons

The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning,
And bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.
                                                              1 Kings 17:6

At first he gritted
his teeth when he heard
cries of scavenger birds
bearing his salvation
in their claws.

But soon their swooping
ordered his day
and he learned the ways
of ravens. Trustworthy
and swift, they provided

a banquet, nourishing
as the brook which quenched
his thirst. He learned
the soothing rhythm
of morning and night 

and saw God’s hands
at work through the birds
of the air. Sitting
by the water, between
rock walls, he learned

the patience of stone,
the beauty of oleander,
the comfort of evening
when the moon,
a bone china pitcher,

pours out cold light.
He slept with a stone
cushioning his head
and felt small lives
like ripples on water

taking him beyond
himself. As he breathed
in and out, God’s spirit
sustained him, a compassionate
companion, speaking

through the sacred text
of sunlight on black
wings and in the babble
of the brook. Elijah
learned that sustenance

arrives from strange
sources, and when the flow
of water receded,
when its last gurgle

into burning sand
and heaviness crushed
his chest, he heard
God’s voice in the silence,
constant as his heartbeat.

This collaborative poem was created by the Sojourners Sunday School class at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind., and edited by Shari Wagner.

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