R S Thomas is best known as the poet of the absence of God, or at least of the presence of God made most acute by his absence. When he is in an angry interrogative mood he besiges the customer services department of the Divine, and with a determination and articulation that makes it difficult to pacify him, let alone satisfy him.
We have had names for you:
The Thunderer, the Almighty
Hunter, Lord of the snowflake
and the sabre-toothed tiger.
One name we have held back
unable to reconcile it
with the mosquito, the tidal wave,
the black hole into which
time will fall. You have answered
us with the image of yourself
on a hewn tree, suffering
injustice, pardoning it;
pointing as though in either direction:horrifying us
with the possibility of dislocation.
Ah, love, with your arms out
wide, tell us how much more
they must still be stretched
to embrace a universe drawing
away from us at the speed of light.
There is a surprising softness, even sympathy in the portrayal of love crucified, of God spreadeagled and hung in the ultimacy of human pain as it stretches to enfold the whole creation. The last five lines are the reluctant recognition of the poet that infinite suffering is beyond finite comprehension, and therefore the supreme scandal of Christian faith, that the stretched arms of the crucified Jesus are the embracing arms of God holding the universe in being and drawing all that is into the reconciling embrace of the Creator.
This poem echoes some of my own thought and feeling as I've lived within the text of Colossians 1.15-20. That hymn to Christ gives a theological vision which is complemented by Thomas's poem, and the poet's sense of God crucified underlies the cosmic oxymoron that is foolishness to rational minds, and yet is the wisdom of the redeeming God.