ACT 1: HOW TO PREPARE
[Emma, rolling over in bed on the morning of May 14, 2015] “I think I’m having contractions”
[Dan, calmly freaking out] “You think you are? You’re not sure? This could all just be a dream, we’re all brains in vats, it’s impossible for us to know anything with absolute certainty so in gesture of epistemic humility you’re unwilling to say definitively? I need more to go on… Are we having a baby today?”
[Emma] “Possibly, the contractions are really irregular, it could be today. They could stop again. It might not be for another week.”
[Dan] “Have you been timing them?”
[Emma] “Yeah, 7, 10, 5. It’s pretty hard to tell.”
[Dan] “Ok, I’m taking Nat to school.”
[1 hour later, in the kitchen, Emma is having a contraction…]
[Dan] “Ok, that seemed like the real deal… you weren’t able to talk through it. They seem to be close to 5 minutes to me… I think I better go pick up the baby capsule.”
[Leaves, drives to a baby capsule hire place operating out of the garage of a mum in Eastwood. Tells her wife is in labour. She laughs familiarly. Apparently, it’s pretty common for the husband to be making a last minute dash for the baby carrier.]
[Back home, it’s mid-morning]
[Dan] “Any progress?”
[Emma] “I don’t think so, about the same. Still very irregular.”
[Dan] “Ok, bottom line… Am I preaching on Sunday?”
[Dan] “I might just go for a walk and grab a coffee, do some work on my sermon.”
[Exeunt to cafe up the street and Acts 8:26-40]
ACT 2: HAVING A BABY AT HOME
[Dan, working at family table having wisely opted for take-away coffee. Phone rings] “Hello.”
[Emma, calling from bedroom] “Can you come home, I think it’s coming…”
[Dan] I’m just at the other end of the corridor. I can hear you.
[Emma] “Well, COME DOWN HERE THEN.”
[Dan runs down corridor]
[Dan] “Should I call the mid-wife and let her know we’re coming in…?”
[Emma] “Not yet, I think it could still be hours. I’m going to jump in the shower.”
[Dan] “I’ll call your mum and get her to pick up Nat from school.”
[Exeunt Emma to shower, things progress rather quickly… We rejoin the action with Dan madly trying to phone the mid-wife using Emma’s phone. First call goes through to answering machine. Dan makes inarticulate sounds of anger and frustration… Second call also goes through to answering machine. Dan raises serious questions about the legitimacy of mid-wifery as a profession. Phone battery dies. Meanwhile Emma is labouring in the bathroom. Dan is hunting around for phone charger. Plugs in and hooks up phone. Now waiting for phone to restart. Waiting… Waiting… Trying to make Emma comfortable.]
[Dan, in bathroom, coming to grips with reality] “We’re going to do this here…”
[Phone rings in corridor… Dan leaves bathroom to answer]
[Mid-wife] “Hello, it’s the mid-wife on duty at the Ryde Hospital Birth Centre…”
[Dan] “My wife is having a baby right now!!!”
[Emma, from off-stage] “There’s a head [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]”
[Dan, throwing phone down corridor and running to Emma in bathroom] “There can’t be a head.”
There is a head.
[The next few moments are quite messy but the end result is Dan holding a slippery little girl. She is breathing. Dan, Emma, and Evangeline all somewhat entangled in a very tight space between the toilet and bathtub. Dan rather wishes he hadn’t thrown the phone down the corridor… After some tricky manoeuvring, the mid-wife, who is still on the other end of the phone call, is appraised of the situation and an ambulance is called. It takes 20 minutes. Dan calls the reception of Robert Menzies College to let them know that an ambulance is coming so they can raise the boom gate at the entrance to the carpark.]
[Dan] “Hi, just letting you know than an ambulance is on its way to pick up Emma and the baby.”
[Exeunt all with Much Rejoicing]
Evangeline Mairead Anderson becomes (as far as is known) the first person born at Robert Menzies College, and probably one of the few people born on campus at Macquarie University. Emma Anderson is universally acknowledged to be the Ultimate Boss of giving birth. Dan Anderson goes on to have a second career as a mid-(husband)wife.
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[a nativity poem in three trimesters]
The First Trimester
Miriam’s chromosome in courting spirals
Embraces another, such an other — an unfathomable Y.
All the junk, viral, evolutionary, specific, sanctified, elected, DNA of
humanity in his threadbare pockets. An utterly adopted son.
A why of Adam and of Miriam’s flesh
Of meiotic grace eternally begotten
your kingdom come on earth… hosanna
by two… and four… and eight… save us.
those first weeks of waiting when the Ghost encroaching might be—
the Bright Messenger ventilating luminous bullshit—mistaken?
Might be the voice of constant indigestion
Might be my refugee guts longing for home.
for who can swallow a life?
for who can digest what has been?
how can this be?
It turns out that Virgins are not permitted here.
How does flesh tune its antibody tendencies to accept
this impossibly foreign, stooping Son?
Life brings forth vomit. Gaseous roiling anxiety
the swelling of a voice suppressed, pregnant with truths
the fluttery first signs of a divine invasion, an embryo?
where there was nothing, year by year, but nausea.
I am highly favoured
I am the Lord’s servant
I am troubled
I am longing uncertainty
And hope, breathe, hope, breathe, hope hope hope.
O Come O Come…
Who has considered the morning sickness of the Mother of God?
O Miriam, Cry in the wildness of your God.
Of the meanings of flesh he takes from you, multiple meanings.
Lie with me, face to face, breath to breath,
shoulder, breasts, hips, legs pressed
toes tangle them into mine. Feel that?
Throw yourself off the weather granite rock
Freestyling the echoes above the night billabong
That intense pendant locative specificity,
leaping, running naked, swimming in darkness
your lips, eyes closed. Feel that? Flesh is our gravity.
Whisper. Where you touch me and I am most not you
that—and the Lucien pressure in your chest—is flesh
Adjacency is flesh. When I breathe you in
And when I watch you curled around the bruised lump of hope
Inside you. Gestating a present Omnipresence.
How can this be? Flesh falling, into loneliness is flesh
Painting fat nudes on huge canvases is flesh
Morbid obesity drying in creamy layers, the scene of the anthropocene
transgressing until it folds and hangs drooling
on a mineral skeleton, in every landscape, is flesh.
Little one, flesh overflowing all bounds, sucking down the sky
Has it now claimed even Yah? Are you here, Emmanuel?
Or is flesh now everywhere? Are you my graven image?
Or Imago Dei. Metastatic flesh or hypostatic god?
I fear, Miri, O horror of the incarnation.
She sings… O Come, O Come…
The wicked lie abed a-planning
And rise refreshed to seize the day
the prophets lie in bed a dreaming
pastor-pushers lead astray
hope starved, golden cows a-lowing
every flat and pixeled image brays
Show thy face, O Rod of Jesse
Free our hearts from Babylon’s captivity
Rest your hand here, just here. Wait.
Did you feel it?
Of the womb bound god.
He writes inscrutable, interuterine schematics
Under my skin. Traces nova, faint fringes of his works press upon my palm;
“Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”
When I am the swelling gospel—boobs and belly and butt.
The Jerusalem facing-wall
And she wakes me whispering,
Light: photonic son of the creator;
Radiance in mission; resonating every spectrum of creation
—Crashing into her and she preaches him to me, clenching my hand.
Then she sinks into her labour and I cannot follow the word
the ticking silence, grainy light,
the warm sweetness of beasts shuffling, sitting
waiting in intervals of violence and sleep
he comes, he comes
I remember the fear in Miri’s eyes.
The hard plosive word of her water break.
The brine on her legs.
The wind, the quake, the fire passing.
Her voice, “THE LORD, THE LORD” breaking,
Cresting, weeping, no one may see his face and live,
Crashing, passing, all his glory.
Count out loud, Miri, breathe.
Nearly done, nearly done.
In your flesh you will see him.
Look! His crown.
He has come.
Naked, the dawn gasps for air
And cries out his first as his last
Making a way in the darkness
Somewhere on Jerusalem Road.
[There is a 4th part to this poem called ‘Resonance’ that is still a work in progress, stay tuned].Comment and Share
[For Nat, 3 years old]
Morning for me is all about weight. I rise and balance myself on the precipitous edge of the bed, teetering there and staring down into the day, feeling the flesh take hold. Gravity sucking on my bones. Bureaucratic little mind voice already listing off the things that I will not get done today because I can’t. I sit there paralysed by the heaviness.
Except on those days when I am preempted. He comes in promptly at 7am when his clock switches its face from blue with moon and stars to yellow with smiling sun. Wake-Up Time. Never mind that he has clearly been awake watching the thing, waiting.
“It’s wake up time, Dad!”
“Brruhph, Really? Is it dark outside? Is there a moon?”
“No, it’s Wake Up Time!”
“Ok… Give me a little while…”
Bouncing on the bed… Bouncing.
“Want to play table tennis with me, my Daddy?”
Um, no… not really… but damn I love that possessive pronoun. I reckon I could go a rumble. I ask:
“No, don’t rumble me!” [squeals]
I’ll take that as a yes…
I’ve been so many different shapes of heavy in these last anxious years. Heavy in my relationships, carrying weight with others and for others; heavy with intentions; at times unspeakably and unjustifiably heavy hearted. But I live with a little dancer. When we walk, every few steps involve a skip, a twirl, arms raised. Sort of a Russian tartar kind of a dance. While I perch on the edge of the bed, he does laps of the hallway. Why would you walk somewhere when you can run? And why would you run somewhere? Why not just run around?
This is the thing that reaches me in my heaviness. The joyful aimlessness of his exuberance. The older we become, the more we engage with the world around us through the prism of our purposes. Prisoners of our intentions, our brains filtering out the kaleidoscope of sensation that pours in from the shining manifold of creation, distilling its complex polyphony down, down, until all we taste of the world is its fittingness for our consumption. And more and more it tastes like failure.
Until you get interrupted by a midget instantiation of grace who can’t walk in a straight line; who thinks that locomotion anywhere is better when punctuated by jumping into the air, maybe on one foot. Who receives the kingdom of creation as a gift and as a right. Like a child. Who asks ‘why’ constantly. For the simple pleasure of provoking his Father to conversation.
Why does the Kingdom of Heaven belong to such as these? When Jesus went down on one knee, lowered his head to be at their height, and laid his hands on them, what was being communicated in this secret moment between the children and their Lord? This knowledge that they had of him and he of them, that all us old heavy things are left panting on the outside, wondering about?
“I have to go to work now”
“But do you want to play with me?”
“Well, yes, but I have to go to work”
“But do you want to play Lego with me?”
“I really do, especially the bit about Lego, that’s extremely tempting, but I have to go.”
I dun’know. It’s complicated. Adam sinned; we live in an urban, technologically advanced society where economic production tends to take place outside the home; Karl Marx; alienation; other people need me; I’m trying to live as a witness to the future that God has announced in the resurrection of Jesus; to buy food, clothing, shelter for you and your mum; because its just what we do and I’m going to look like a turkey if I have to stand up to preach on Sunday and I haven’t got anything prepared; the Triune nature of God is reflected in our being toward others even in an economic relation of mutual benefit through efficient market-driven distribution of resources. It’s a bit of all of that, among other things.
“Do you want to play train tracks with me my daddy?”
“Yeah, ok. For a little while.”
Jesus said that his kingdom is for people like you, little man. Little people who see the world paradoxically as both gift and right, but not as project; who leap about wildly with the joy and wonder of living experimentally. There will be lots of days still to come that will begin and end with heaviness of heart, the world is just broken that way, so are hearts. But not all the days, and not the last of them. I know that grace will keep waking us up, interrupting our apostolic presumptions, unexpectedly and inefficiently raising things from the dead. Bouncing on the bed. Can I play in your kingdom?Comment and Share