But for now, in what passes as daylight,
remember those who dwell in night,
remember the night that lies before
those who fail to remember the light.
Remember the absence
of memory or light,
remember the path out of darkness
In a creaking house for family feasting, I sat
as summer light streamed through leadlight doors and
cracks in curtains,
fairy lights twinkling on pine tree while
I rocked my youngest, disrupted by
the change of place, his older
brother’s noise and the stubborn light,
and tried to make a darkness conducive
to an eight-month child’s much-needed sleep,
and fancied the Father
keeping vigil by my fretful side
neither slumbering nor sleeping
until true day arrives.
…heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign…
(Christina Rossetti, “In the Bleak Midwinter”)
While fires burned, I retreated
to safer, internal climes, denying heat.
Discomfort seemed unreasonable,
inconvenient that we should be so troubled.
Yet world rarely does as it’s told,
pointing a finger at us as we point back at it.
If world won’t be bullied, how much less so God
who bursts mightier than fire
and shakes out our smug contentment
with the mountains and the stars.
If earth will melt, how much more our pride
when kingdom comes in blaze,
This we long for:
homes of flourishing,
hearts of abundance,
generous speech and thoughts and hands,
well-watered gardens and evening cool,
children like olive plants,
fruit in season and out,
and ever fruitful words and deeds,
no harvest passing empty,
no word bringing blight,
no failing crop or government,
no cry of distress in our streets,
and the will to will,
the longing to long,
the hope to hope,
the day to come.
How long shall I long in vain?
(Christina Rossetti, “Of Him That Was Ready to Perish”)
And so we are not ready,
too full of dross and dust,
too much in need of refining fire
to enter a purity our kind spoilt long ago.
Nor is it ready for us,
nor is the day ripe,
for patient salvation beckons
while a kingdom of misfits slowly heeds the call.
And, in our waiting, fire cleanses:
in expectation, yes, but also in doubt,
in anguish and breathlessness and all the daily ache
that drives our longing ever more to be clean.
In all our midnight prayers and wrestling,
all our broken hips and pride,
all our cries – How long, how long? –
in all this our souls will prepare.
The first thing I must own
is that there is no place
in a new heaven or a new earth
for the ancient dirt
that clogs my soul,
no place for the fetid fury
that clings to my speech,
nor for the old-as-Cain
hatred of brother
that kills me the moment
that it kills you.
A nomad for much of my days, I confess
the urge is strong now to stay put, to secure,
to gather and store,
to extend the barns for the coming drought.
Where luxurious waste gathers in wardrobes and pantries, I long
to play the rich fool and leave it be.
Yet still the cloud gets up each day
and leads me to I-don’t-know-where,
and we who have been baptised in Red Sea and cloud
must pack up our chattels and keep our hands empty
with everything but covenant open to loss
and the homes we’ve not built set before us.