His Name is John (For the Nativity of John the Baptist)

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.

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