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.
I go to prepare a place for you.
We do too;
with unsure anticipation, we make a space
atop the stairs, with bunting and books
and animals on the walls,
a cot, tiny clothes,
a place for your toys.
We also prepare
our days, our thoughts.
They too make space
for the big rearrange,
this reordering of selves,
this exchanging of grace.
We sweep out old cobwebs, air out stale pride.
Not only our home
but our hearts must be fit.
We prepare a space for you.
While eternity yawns its welcoming wait,
our big brother making a place for us too,
checking the time, vacuuming floors,
eagerly listening to knocks at the door…
Does my heart have room too
for eternity’s home?
We wait. We are waited for.
Time to make room.
The taste of hospitals and airports says:
You are here
under whatever circumstances,
no doubt stressed.
Have a coffee.
No-one will care if you cry;
everyone is going somewhere different
Everyone is crying or dazed,
on edge yet kept
in secure wards
or waiting gates,
in comfy chairs.
Anything could happen, and
everything is happening. This
is the taste, the smell
of hospitals and airports, just
like churches should all be.