...her humble self a hearth divinely wrought...

For some reason this year, I can't stop thinking about the annunciation, so here's one more before the incarnation is the focus of our celebration.
She thought herself unnoticed, ordinary 
until the gaze of Joseph lit a flame 
of love and new awareness in her spirit, 
an inner warming when he said her name.
And then a shocking, wondrous invitation, 
a privilege and burden never sought.
The fiery figure offered explanation:
her humble self was hearth divinely wrought.
The darkness of our weary lives is broken, 
our waking dreams found small beneath the light 
of holiness that kindles hope unspoken, 
quickening the fire of new-found life.
When once we simply thought our hearts betrothed, 
we find ourselves enlightened by Great Love.

“O Dayspring”

I’m posting a poem I wrote last winter, because today’s O Antiphon leading up to Christmas is “O Oriens” which means O Dayspring. This one was published in Lyrical Iowa 2021.

Incarnation at Dawn

The dark tendrils of the old maple
are framed as a detail within the
angles of the sunroom window.
The blue beyond them is a canvas
light-years deep.
Such is the texture of everything we see,
flat in the glance,
limitless on closer inspection.

Today the image draws my attention
to the groundedness and the reaching,
the tension of incarnation.  Altogether here
while reaching, always drawing life
from both dimensions

and, I suppose, more than the two
but something deeper still, as seen now
by the lightening of the sky.
The dimensions of the branches
come into focus, rich-textured.
Word made flesh in my backyard.  

Advent 2021: Mary

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:26-37)

My whimsical design is inspired by The St. John’s Bible, where gold signifies the inbreaking of God’s presence, and butterflies hint at the appearance of angels. I used a homely, quilted background for Mary, a humble young woman who teaches us how to receive God: with an open heart.

What made me notice her? 
When I pulled out my camera 
the other children swarmed, posed, 
leaned in to see the result.  
The wives of the village chief 
sauntered over to see what the fuss was all about.
But she hung back.
Others clamored.
She watched, 
curious, timid.
I prayed for her, convinced 
the Divine had shone a spotlight on her 
for my benefit and hers.
I named her Jolie. I could see 
beauty under the grit.  
I wonder what became of her.  

Mary was not the kind of girl 
you’d notice, didn’t seek attention, 
only something interesting 
to feed her curiosity.
When the strange figure delivered 
the news of God’s favor 
she checked the room 
where her sisters slept nearby 
to make sure he was talking to her.
Nobody else was awake.

How many others took a pass before 
you got to my name on the roster?
Because I am definitely not a first-string player.
Not your mother-of-the-anointed-one type.
I hate parades.

Never mind. 
If what you want is somebody who will 
blend in, 
won’t get the big head, 
just willing to do the job,
then I guess I’m your girl.

Where do I sign?

Advent 2021: Joseph

Annunciation to Joseph

Steady, old boy.
You can believe your eyes.

Admit it.
This is not unfamiliar, this 
mystic hope that 
shimmered in the shadows that day 
as the sawdust settled under 
your restless feet.

You can believe what her ears 
heard, what she told you, 
how the messenger revealed 
the mystery’s shape hidden 
within her innate devotion.

You can do this.

The raw material of your trust 
is seasoned, solid, 
ready for your skilled hands 
to make something useful, 
something beautiful.
Construct it with her 
grace as cornerstone.  
Together make room for the child 
whose keeping is 
your heart’s unnamed desire.  

Advent 2021: Elizabeth

Advent 2021: Elizabeth
I couldn’t tell you 
when it went absent 
without leave but 
one day I noticed it was 
gone. The last shred of 
slipped out 
the door. 
You adjust.

The sadness becomes mortar 
for a wall just high enough 
to keep the dream from getting in 
finding its old place 
where it fit in so well 
it didn’t. 
We resigned ourselves to 
a good enough life.

But then—years later, mind you—
he came home from Jerusalem
out of breath and out of 
words to explain himself.
He kept making the same 
frantic motions 
desperate for me to understand.
When he finally settled down 
we played a guessing game: 
he acted out a story 
that began with routine but 
ended with surprise.

I laugh when I think of 
his exaggerated gestures 
his repeated look of goofy astonishment 
his tears of frustration 
before I blurted the unthinkable 
and the joy knocked us 
onto the floor in a tangle. 

It’s been quiet around here 
for months
except when we smile at one another 
and a gust of hope stirs, 
rearranges our secret.
One day it blew down the last 
remnant of resignation.
I can tell you the exact moment 
because it was the day I felt 
a tiny breeze 
fluttering in my womb.