Seeing the Unseeable

When duty called him
To Jerusalem
We had almost ceased
Hoping,
Our hearts parched
As the dusty hill-soil,
Our virtue,
Our blamelessness
A habit,
Our love salted
With sorrow
To be forever
Two.

He came back
Mute,
Wild-eyed,
Terrifying,
So that instinct,
Stronger than love,
Than reunion,
Backed me away
Behind my loom.

The writing tablet,
Thrust roughly
Into my hesitant hands,
Raved
Of incense,
Angels,
Gabriel himself,
Joy for us,
A son,
The Holy Spirit
Outpoured,
Elijah reborn,
Our son,
John.

I was afraid,
Seeing him maddened
By despair’s visions,
Until I looked harder,
Saw his wild hope
Shot with incredulity,
To have seen the unseeable,
Been offered the impossible,
And believed.

SIA 11 xii 2013

 

 

 

Advent Light

Skye Moon

Silver beams pierce the night like arrows in flight.
It is not dark –
there not an absence of light,
only a surfeit of perception.

A glow travelling through time,
through space.
Dusting the earth.
Lighting on the ordinary,
the every day,
transforming.

Wet washing lines become midnight diamond necklaces,
damp roofs sheets of polished gold,
cresting waves are dressed with strings of glistening pearls
while gentle halos bedeck those the light rests upon.

In the light,
by the light,
focus falls on other things, the light itself all to quickly overlooked
discarded,
unobserved as it draws our observations to other things.

Making all things touched by it the most precious of all.

 

Sarah

In the dim tent,
Its dark hides
No longer needed
To protect
My beauty,
My fertility
From lascivious eyes,
But still my refuge
From the fierce light,
The yellow sun
Beating the earth
As my childlessness
Battered my soul,
I saw three men
Appear,
Shimmering,
Brighter than heat-haze,
Until Abraham’s greeting
Transformed them
Into the simulacrum
Of travellers.

I baked,
The calf was killed
For these rare creatures,
Visitors to the old man,
Patriarch only
To a slave-woman’s son,
And his wrinkled wife,
Her womanhood,
Her beauty
Dessicated
By age and disappointment.

Concealed
In the dim tent,
Sheltered by propriety.
I knew it a mistake
When the bright stranger
Promised me a son
And I laughed,
Presuming him ignorant
Of my withered womb.

But suddenly
His light
Outshone
The beating sun,
His power
A vast shadow
In the shadeless day,
Piercing
My refuge-tent,
My heart,
My all,
As he promised
That no wonder
Was beyond the Lord
And I knew
I had laughed at
An angel,
At the living God.

II

The majestic Lord,
The Lord of wonder,
Assured me
That my womb
Would flower
And I laughed
In scepticism,
In bitterness,
In unbelief,
Until my fear
Struck the laughter
From my lips.

I knew
When Abraham
In cautious,
Breath-holding love,
Began my miracle,
But I could not laugh
For fear.

I tiptoed
Through each
Weary, aching,
Joyful day,
Each hour of confirmation,
Movement,
Flowering
Of the child within,
Stretching
My too-old body,
Greedy
For my willing gifts,
But I dared not laugh
For fear.

After endless days,
Each too short,
Too long,
I held my living,
Flailing,
Screaming miracle.
I named him Isaac,
Because now,
All fear assuaged,
All bitterness
Washed
In his birth-blood,
I could only laugh.

And so we wait

DSCN0941

Earth grown old, yet still so green,
Deep beneath her crust of cold
Nurses fire, unfelt, unseen:
Earth grown old.

We who live are quickly told:
Millions more lie hid between
Inner swathings of her fold.
When will fire break up her screen?

When will life burst thro’ her mold?
Earth, earth, earth, thy cold is keen,
Earth grown old.

Christina Rossetti

Annunciation

The art misleads
Across centuries,
Its European light,
Soft foliage,
Pale golden stone
A gentler brightness
Than the harsh
Blue sky
The glaring whites,
The angular palms
Of my human world.

I did not sit
Blue-clad,
Cool,
Suspended
In passive innocence.
Blue sucked colour
From my dark skin.
In my rose-brown shift,
Rough, old,
Sweat-soaked
By roof-chores
Under
The relentless sun,
I was ambushed
By unimaginable choice.

The messenger, too,
Was wingless.
Clothed, yes,
Beautiful,
But no gorgeous youth.
Clad in all-colour,
No-colour,
Glowing impression
More than man.

The words,
The message,
Were as described,
Save only
That he spoke
Not aloud
But in the sudden
Silence
That drowned my heart
In fear,
Doubt,
Bliss,
A sword-thrust’s pain,
And drove
From my soul
That all-changing
Yes.

Becoming Three

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do.

From The Journey, by Mary Oliver