[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
Leaves don’t fall. Not in any straightforward sense. You really get a sense of this if you watch widely, unfocus that point in the centre of your looking and gaze from the sides of your eyes. Delight your peripheral vision. Wait for the great exhalation to pass over an avenue of plane trees.
While you wait we lay down the background tracks: the footfalls, occasionally a hard heel more resonant; the stream of conscious chatter, a sort of non-respiring susurrus that might pass as a replacement for a mountain river if you’re in the right frame of mind; all punctuated with crunching as a foot speaks with a leaf adrift in the path.
Now the breath comes over the trees, you hear it for beautiful moments before it touches you. And if you are listening in that interlude you feel your heart set itself higher, the soul that lost its wings and fell to flesh stretches its phantom limbs, your sinews tension, your skin intensely waits.
It is the moment you stand in the hot sun on a tall rock above cool water and throw yourself into the air. It is the moment before you lean in to kiss the girl. The static electricity of desire is pendant on the tip of every neuron. It is the aching, aching anticipation of the touch of the wind. This is how a tree waits.
When the Spirit comes, the breath, the wind—whatever you call it—and runs his fingers through your hair, and you reach up to catch his hand and feel his fingers passing through yours, knitting and parting and passing on… When you cannot follow. When you consist in moments of anticipation, fraught for touch, longing to be caught up… then we shed leaves like tears, wordless signs that we are ready to hear the promises. Then we cast our dead things into the air to see them dance in his hands, to see him lay them gently to rest in the earth and then raise them up again.
Watch when the wind comes.
The leaves do not fall.