...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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
If what you want is somebody who will
won’t get the big head,
just willing to do the job,
then I guess I’m your girl.
Where do I sign?
Annunciation to Joseph
Steady, old boy.
You can believe your eyes.
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,
Construct it with her
grace as cornerstone.
Together make room for the child
whose keeping is
your heart’s unnamed desire.
I couldn’t tell you
when it went absent
without leave but
one day I noticed it was
gone. The last shred of
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
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
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
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.