Not expectant last year, we met
the season with a kind of still gratitude,
quiet in the truth that what had been
had been, and was not now,
grateful for months of frozen meals
and flowers (grief and surgery have these in common),
and hopeful that the next year must
be better at least than the one soon past.
How small our hopes. This year we find
the season catch us unawares while we
play catch-up on laundry and give our days
to calming two ever-opening eyes
and settle a mind eager to consume the world.
How quickly all this opens. Even
our almond tree from last year’s spring
already bears a handful of fruit
and life will run ahead of us now,
able to walk while we dazed ones still blink.
Nothing stays still very long…
Yet there’s a baby bursting in the midst of things,
catching our sleepless summer unawares.
Even now, when an eye-blink has transfigured our house,
even now our expectation’s small.
If I, He says, can do such a miracle as this and made it easy work, how much more after the labor of the world?
I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking…
(Song of Solomon 5:2a)
The world sleeps, but still some wise men gaze out
unto the beckoning sky, and some
still wake to hear the door pounding, night humm-
ing in active grace of years. No doubt,
the gentleness of the stars will not shout,
yet the song of the angels ever thrums,
always beauty, until mortals must come
to the end of ourselves, our hearts, our mouths…
Lie awake, lie empty. You long because
that which you long for cannot be grasped:
not now, not while this perishable stuff
can only defer your hopes, caught in chaff.
Lie awake, lie longing. Dwell in the pause
between the now and not yet. Never lapse.
He rose up like a shoot before Him, a shoot from the parched earth; something spoken secretly occurred openly today.
(St Ephraim the Syrian, Nativity Hymns 1)
TV screens bear children’s prayers to a jolly man in red.
My wish list is as full as my cupboard; my spirit is silent today.
From department store dreams and desires filling reams,
O Son of Man, release us.
Shadows cast by desert palms long ago predicted
that only the thirsty will come to the well,
only the helpless will kneel.
Read history with alien desperation:
strangers in their homes know better than we
who never need long for Christmas.
…the dread of something after death –
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns – puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of…
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet)
What dreams may come when we set out for stars?
What will we find when, solar systems pierced,
We gaze beyond the reach of looking-glass?
That our Sun has a cousin much more fierce?
That Pluto’s a planet after all? That we
Are not alone? That man’s an errant knave?
That, mirrored in Kepler 452b,
We see our fate: as rock without any wave?
Still, wave; don’t drown. Light millennia stand
Between us and our twin; no cheap flights
To suss out greener grasses. Best-laid plans
Must prove themselves or else be caught in light.
Hope makes a fool of missions to other spheres,
Always ready when true land appears.
I gather moments like raindrops,
these microscopic buds of spring
tricked by sun
to come out, one by one;
how hesitant can be
the grandest glimpse of things
I catch the way your moments dance
from distance –
yet close enough to ring
the shadows into song
in soft, legato days of praise.
how hopefully we hold
in tentative expectancy
You hold our hope in moments of joy,
What we do not expect
grips tight. I neglect
too soon what we know. Let go
that pass. Joy is forever,
the things that stir our hearts in song.
The oath must still hold true yet waiting dries expectation;
the dew of your youth evaporates in the tomb.
Now: what the LORD said to David’s Lord is unchanged,
but the rods of foes seem the triumphant ones today.
Only Pilate’s wife regrets the washing of hands; only women weep.
Only in secret do we take your body to its tomb.
In the morning, with spices and sorrow we will greet
your right hand and your nail-torn feet,
with your king’s footstool too heavy to roll away,
and something like morning tackling deadened hearts.
Drink by the brook as you wait, if you can;
silence might hold some promise in this night of nights.