Deprived of the ordinary markings of days -
drives to work, birthdays, people to celebrate -
more fervently to organic signs,
the constant shifts in the garden,
which trees have blossomed,
which ones have leaves,
how tall the pea plant has grown,
how white its petals.
These and the aphids signal time:
those and the snails migrating,
the worms beneath the compost,
the dead bird by the granny flat,
rising and falling daily tallies,
who died youngest, who's all clear
and how long until - we cannot say -
only greet other pilgrims on the way, and pray.
Watchful, I spy the first buds,
now only the flower's potential,
one day, soon - the fruit.
Impatient, I come here
again, again each day
to measure progress in the budding leaf
or to catch
the lemon in the act of ripening,
quince in mid-blossom,
almond in leaf.
Wait, small heart.
It lingers; wait.
The signs are sure
though August is fickle and eyes are sore.
And God has granted each beauty its day;
rest your eyes on this
Winter sets in,
rubs his damp feet all through the laundry,
wipes his everwet hair with each handtowel,
breathes ice on my windscreen,
cries soggy complaints on my feet.
And somewhere we are lost
between fire and candle, lost
in the long, slow ordinary that yawns
Days blink; you miss the moment
of daylight, the chance
to dry out and be.
spans the gap between
now and the length of days you long for,
creeping up to you
in beggar's clothes,
with a leper's lips and the nagging
that you are caught in finitude, built
to stretch in timelessness,
bound by time, to give of time,
to bide time, to abide.
after the kids are asleep
and the day's tidy-up's done,
unresolved jobs and
positive dispersal of yeast through
of friend in need, kneading
of this or that hope,
pounding heaven's door like a breadboard,
pounding grace into slack
and crumbling day,
pounding the gate
of coming kingdom,
pounding the weight of the season,
the wait of the harvest,
the slowness of leaven,
the tarrying rise.
Dough sits before the heater.
The day's done, and morning
will show what will rise,
what still waits.
Meanwhile, pluck tomatoes
ripe from the garden.
Watch the quinces shed their fur,
and burst with promise while
cockatoos eye them off.
Check the peaches.
See the opening flowers on the lemon tree.
Cut the roses, deck the table.
Water, plant and wait.
Number days and count the joys
and trust that tears shall cease.
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.
Bulbs in soil await the spring,
and fruit awaits the sun,
parched earth waits for thunderstorm
and watchmen wait for dawn.
Guilt awaits the gavel’s fall,
fear awaits the dreaded thing,
hope waits for what is not seen
and voices wait to sing.
The busy spirit does not wait;
“Time waits for no-one,” it will shout.
Impatience sooner dies than waits,
and reason tends to doubt.
My soul awaits the morning light,
as flowers droop until the day.
In fear and trembling I await;
make wilderness. Make way.
I know this day well, have often lived here,
yet rarely for good reason, only
the wounded pride of disappointment,
the failure of God to sate expectations.
Licking my wounds, embalming my life goals,
I sit beneath a Jonah tree and await the explosion.
Nothing comes, only Sabbath:
the time for waiting, for preparing spice and oil,
ready to have all expectation
destroyed and rearranged.
I missed a day. Too busy with carols and attempts
to put my son to sleep, I slept
that second Advent Sabbath night
forgetting to rest, forgetting to write.
Rest slips past us now. Today I forgot also
to drink water, to eat. Now waiting
in queues I regret this forgetting.
The time we save now we pay later in kind;
rushing heart never won, only pounded.
What now? I sit thirsty, side-by-side in this waiting,
social security numbers like Augustus’s census,
no room anywhere. Wait,
weak heart, wait.