He has put on the garment of the world


A god has chosen to be shaped in flesh.
He has put on the garment of the world.
A blind and sucking fish, a huddled worm,
he crouches here until his time shall come,
all the dimensions of his glory furled
into the blood and clay of the night’s womb.
Eternity is locked in time and form.

Within those mole-dark corridors of earth
how can his love be born and how unfold?
Eternal knowledge in an atom’s span
is bound by its own strength with its own chain.
The nerve is dull, the eyes are stopped with mould,
the flesh is slave of accident or pain.
Sunk in his brittle prison-cell of mud,
the god who once chose to become a man
is now a man who must become a god.


(Judith Wright: “Myth”)



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.

Great circles, radials

For Canberra's centenary, “City and Mirage” by edge-dweller Judith Wright.

The tawny basin in the ring of hills
held nothing but the sunlight’s glaze,
a blue-blank opaline mirage,
sheep-cropping, flies, the magpies’ warble.
Burley Griffin brimmed it with his gaze.

Cloud-architecture in reflected image:
arena, amphitheatre, gallery
on gallery of quivering marble,
rose from his mind - great circles, radials...
Over the clear-strung air his fingers played
conjuring a rhetorical opera-city
for that bald-eagle, King O’Malley.
Fantasies of power. The grey sheep nibble,
dogs snap at flies. Shoddy officials 
argue his job away, confuse his plan.
Mirages, changed to lakes, lap sewage.
Cities are made of man.