This is the child

This is the child. He has not yet put out leaves.
His bare skin tastes the air; his naked eyes
know nothing but strange shapes. Nothing is named;
nothing is ago, nothing not yet. Death is that which dies,
and grief has yet no meaning and no size.
Where the wild harebell grows to a blue cave
and the climbing ant is a monster of green light
the child clings to his grassblade. The mountain range
lies like a pillow for his head at night,
the moon swings from his ceiling. He is a wave
that timeless moves through time, imperishably bright.

(From Judith Wright's “The World and the Child”)

Death and a maiden

About this day two years ago, I posted Judith Wright's poem “Woman to Child.” Pregnant myself, I found it fit for remembering Christ's birth and conjecturing what Mary's meditations on the subject might have been. This Christmas, three more Wright poems seem to me to resonate with the grand and tender mystery of the Incarnation. Here's the first one: “Woman's Song”, which precedes “Woman to Child” in the original sequence. It speaks to that dark and intimate bond a mother has with her unborn child, and the wonder tinged with fear that attends her expectation of birth. All births are both a losing and a finding, a looking forward to life as well as death, but especially this one; especially this day, this sunrise.

O move in me, my darling,
for now the sun must rise;
the sun that will draw open
the lids upon your eyes. 

O wake in me, my darling.
The knife of day is bright
to cut the thread that binds you
within the flesh of night. 

Today I lose and find you
whom yet my blood would keep —
would weave and sing around you
the spells and songs of sleep.  

None but I shall know you
as none but I have known;
yet there's a death and a maiden
who wait for you alone;
so move in me, my darling,
whose debt I cannot pay.
Pain and the dark must claim you,
and passion and the day.

For unto us

It's been a while since I posted anything. That's because we're expecting a Happy Event next winter, and I've spent the last ten weeks or so on the couch or hunched over the sink. Morning sickness is hideous, meaningless, and grossly misnamed; in my experience, anyway, there's nothing matutinal about it. Unrelenting nausea aside, we do feel blessed and excited. And this Christmas I'm thinking about the gestation of Our Lord, as much as his birth. I wonder if Mary felt sick? I wonder if her joints ached and her ankles swelled up and if she got kicked in the ribs by a tiny dominical foot? Riding that donkey can't have been easy. We know she cherished things in her heart. I wonder if those things were anything like Judith Wright's lovely meditation “Woman to Child”? Once the nausea passed, maybe. 
You who were darkness warmed my flesh 
where out of darkness rose the seed. 
Then all a world I made in me; 
all the world you hear and see 
hung upon my dreaming blood. 

There moved the multitudinous stars, 
and coloured birds and fishes moved. 
There swam the sliding continents. 
All time lay rolled in me, and sense, 
and love that knew not its beloved. 

O node and focus of the world; 
I hold you deep within that well 
you shall escape and not escape- 
that mirrors still your sleeping shape; 
that nurtures still your crescent cell. 

I wither and you break from me; 
yet though you dance in living light 
I am the earth, I am the root, 
I am the stem that fed the fruit, 
the link that joins you to the night.

The descending blue

Of all the images that come with Christmas, the one that's been in my mind this time is that of a seed. A tiny seed sprung from another world, struck into our old soil. Breaking through it, growing to fruit and shade - graft, and gift. So, rather than a poem of bleak midwinter, or Christmastide, it's Hopkins' “Spring” that I think of today. 

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling. 
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.