Dame Juliana and the Mule (For Julian of Norwich)

(This poem comes with a thank-you to my friend Bei-En for providing the story about Julian shaking her fist at God.)

All shall be well, she said, and all
Manner of thing shall be well. And yet
A story – perhaps apocryphal –
Tells of one glum day, when she
Went out upon a mountain road,
Riding on her mule, and found the
Rain fall heavily about them,
Keeping them from going forth.
Did the rain dampen her mind? Was
This just one rainstorm too many,
One mountain-road crisis more than
She was then equipped to bear?
The story tells, she shook her fist
Up at the God she saw beyond,
Behind the clouds and their wild storm,
And, in amongst the thundery rain,
She yelled a sterner, less calm refrain:
If this is how you treat your friends,
She cried to God, then it is no
Wonder that you don’t have many!
Do we shy away from these
Angry words? Or do we, in
Our hearts see the reflection of
Ourselves, spiteful, beneath those clouds?
All shall be well, she said, and all
Manner of thing shall be well. And yet
She, like us, knew how it goes
On windy, stormy mountain roads.
Did she forever feel the glow
Of everything always so well,
An endless state of quiet bliss?
The story tells us otherwise.
It does not show her fist retract,
Yet we ourselves all know the way
That angry fists can freeze and fall
With lowered and placated heads,
In the broken, contrite prayers of us,
The mules who moan at clouds that we
Don’t understand but fall beneath
The grace that makes all things most well.

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