Excerpt from “Plague Year”

But we venture on. Newness at least is in
the air, on Capitol Hill, in the fruit 
jumping out of trees. We cannot slow this
if we wanted to. Shopping aisles charge on
towards Christmas, while my heart craves Advent.
I could use the dark, the waiting, to bend
soul's joints back into shape, could use the long
silence to learn again to wait, to wish.
We have not yet traced the evil to the root,
nor will we. But our hearts may learn to sing
a purer song if they remember this:
the days we could not sing or hug or kiss,
the days we passed at home craving our home
where we are not apart and not alone.

Broken, new

Everything breaks,
is broken, or
sticks underfoot like porridge.
Voice grows tired, and
heart turns wild
at the endless, savage
price of love.
Crushed underfoot,
I learn Eden and Golgotha
while I wipe the floor again.
Body breaks, is broken,
tomorrow is new.

The Gospel Reading

The day had gone on long enough.
First the Pharisees and their questions,
then the intruding children,
then the camel and the needle's eye,

so that, when they cried out,
"Who then can be saved?" it was
as much from the weariness of the day's
debates as the thought that riches
could keep an earnest man from heaven.

And so, right when
all their careworn sandles seemed
not worth the effort, He looked
into eyes and said, "What's impossible
for man is possible for God."
What then? Could God lift
the labour-sick soul, and write
new possibility on its nature?

In the midst of the burden
and the striving, this truth:
Be small. Be like a child.
Be less so I may be more.

Wednesday

Learning the names of days, my son
asks each morning for the signs that distinguish
one from the next: is this
the day the rubbish truck comes?
Does Dad go to work?
Is it music class today?
And this day, one without
any special markers, leaves me
bereft of news to give him, only
the name - Wednesday - and the thought
that days like this are needed, when
we simply live, and get on with life,
while trees do their daily work
and cells respirate, we too
find grace in the normal,
and the chance to try
again what we left
undone as yesterday's sun went down.
All this I cannot say, only
that these ordinary days
bring their own small gifts.

Day Zero

On this day
I still wrestled my children
into their clothes,
still raced out the door
too late for comfort,
still pricked my finger with a rose thorn,

still feared that all my labour's in vain,
and found the evening slump
a little close to despair

yet
everything changed, while nothing changed
and mustard seeds of life were at work
whether we noticed
or not.

Unbound

My twins' favourite game
is to grab a Bible each and run
delighted round the room shouting,
"Bible! Bible!" as though
treasure has been found.
Their Bibles are ragged and worn from rough handling;
binding broken, the Word opens up,
unbound, into the mess of life.

Compline: After Christian Wiman

Man is what he is and he is everything that he is in the decision of faith

Karl Barth
And faith, or belief, is more
direction than assent
to a thought or a fact; it is
movement towards
the thing from which others turn,
and from which you may have turned,
will have turned,
for hole-hearted love is never whole-hearted,

and yet
you correct, in daily
micromovements, to turn
back, again, again, and dwell -
for faith also is dwelling,
an end-of-day settling,
body and soul, weary and fighting,
ending your fighting,
and drooping, falling
into infinite arms.

Vespers: After Louise Glück

Once I believed in You,
still do,
though belief is often evasive, often abstract,
like air, which itself defies grasp
yet needy lungs clutch at it with the certainty
that this, this alone they must have.

And I believe like
the fig tree believes in the soil,
sometimes wilted, sometimes refusing fruit,
always held, always known to the roots.

And at the vesper light, I
believe, not with
the confident certainty of the apologist in debate,
the smug politician turning
divine name to unholy cause,
but like
the bed beneath me believes in the ground,
believes in the frame that holds it.

Ubi Caritas: For World Mental Health Day

What happens, he wonders,
shattered by the mess, by the day,
by the constancy of demands,
by the ever-present lesson of patience,
by the daily failure to learn this patience -

What happens, he asks, when my love is broken?

Nothing happens. The day goes on,
all is reset as night arrives;
all but the weight that pulls at his shoulders,
that sags like his soul has a leak in its middle.
Nothing happens;
night is as long and restless as the one before,
and morning will come with its worries anew.

But this still happens. The glory happens,
though it does not shout or cry.
Day on day, God dwells in this mystery:
that love can wake up
tomorrow
and do
what love has done today.