After all we have done and left undone,
after joy, after grief, after unbelief,
after wrapping paper scattered on floor,
after food is gone or stashed away,
after conversations thrive or starve,
after bombs are thrown and names are known,
after fire and flood, after duties done,
after every going down of Sun,
the darkness still has not overcome,
the darkness will not overcome.
For Thou art in the wilderness
Drawing and leading Thine Own love…
(Christina Rossetti, “The Chiefest Among Ten Thousand”)
The barren land will bear fruit
but now, in this waiting time, I must go
where barrenness still lingers
to meet with You who chose this
of all the compass points in creation,
of every nook of the ever-expanding universe –
chose this place, and this flesh.
I will go where You are found
and I will go to find Your face,
the Rose of Sharon set against the thistles,
the morning sun at heat of day.
My eyes have seen
yet my heart forgets,
eager to assume the worst.
I would be Simeon and yet
dismiss the word
Only let me see, I pray,
yet choke to hear the words.
Sight is not faith; I must hold on
to all my hope deferred and keep
vigil with what mercy shows.
Do not dismiss me yet.
When the cry comes out – Prepare the way! –
are we found listening, heeding or tending to
our own private laneways, our private gains?
If I am to hear Him when He should appear
and if my feet will be swift and fleet,
I must jettison all
that I hold yet holds me, and
throw off the loves that so easily entangle,
ready to run at the sound of His steps.
Hospital room. While my uncle and I tried
to tend to my grandmother’s needs, we heard
behind the curtain divider
a granddaughter and grandson discuss
and how the west has avoided death
while the east (both fresh from travel) takes
the wiser path, rubbing
face and hands in body ash
and staring death’s immanence in the eyes.
“What a drain on public money,” they decried,
to describe their grandmother’s dying days.
I fetched pillows and poured water into
polystyrene cups (she never drank from those
when she had a choice)
and tried to stare my last enemy down.
Where is your victory? Where’s your sting?
All I could muster as prayer was, Come.
We always move around and so
fittingly our Christmas is mobile,
each returning to their homes, like Joseph
and a heavily expectant Mary, carrying
the hope of the world in her womb.
We depart carrying gifts in shopping bags
or catch up on forgotten things at airport stores.
And when we arrive: reunion, but
no birth, Messiah forgotten where we left Him
and hope still swirling at the baggage carousels.
O Lord, restore us deaf and blind,
Unclose our lips tho’ dumb.
(Christina Rossetti, “Advent”)
At my desk, while
a quiet internal road ebbed
and flowed with the business traffic
of the common afternoon,
kicked up dust from the gravel carpark
and tossed hair
into plaintive matts, and threw
clothes into disarray
on computer screen a chiselled Christ
embed an Auschwitz prison wall
and mothers cried to Him, How long?
before I resumed my chores.
My heart is weak and does not long;
I chisel comfort on my wall.
O Christ who pleads as mankind bleeds:
make me long. How long?