The name was not a family name. But no-one in your family has That name! they said, as he wrote down, Faithful now at very last, Just what the angel said to him. And true – it was an unusual name; Yet as he scratched upon the page, “His name is John”, he felt a loosening Of his tongue, as though it had been Untied from cunning, tight-strung ropes, And from his mouth poured forth the praise That was well-known to Elkanah And Hannah, Sarah, Abraham, Whose ranks Elizabeth and he Had that day blessedly joined: New life borne from a barren womb, An angel’s sigh, a laugh, a drunken Show of prayer transformed! And yet, Amidst the joyful throng, a tightening Formed within his throat, for he Knew the way these things would go: That Abram had to raise a knife; That Eli took what was Hannah’s; And even as Sarah’s laugh echoed, Samson shaved and Herod dined; For this too had the angel said: That once he knew the right from wrong, This child would know too that his birth, This miracle, had given birth To a life that was not his own, His name a testimony to A graciousness that bore a cost, A life lived out among the weeds And desert thorns and loquat trees, A voice crying, Prepare the way, Who made the way, prepared the fruit, Yet bowed before the feet of one Whose sandals he could not untie; And, in his miracle of life, Walked the way to death.