by Lucy Shaw
Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest…
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.
Here is a confession: I struggle with the thought of my children dying.
It may be partly due to the fact that our first child was born 9 weeks premature. We thought it odd when my wife hadn’t felt him move for a whole day. I was awoken that night by my wife, who was bleeding. We will never forget that long, quiet trip to the hospital through the deserted early-morning streets. I hadn’t even met this child and I thought that I had already lost him. Even after he was born, our time with him was sporadically seized by the deafening chimes of alarm bells ringing to warn that his heart rate had dropped too low, or that he had stopped breathing for too long. It’s hard to even think back to that time. The helplessness of it all was the worst, and though I would like to say that I trusted God throughout it all there were times where it felt like my insides would turn to stone if that frail heart stopped beating.
I realized not long after his birth that creating an idol out of your child is one of the easiest and most dangerous things to do. Filial love is good–but elevated to an absolute it becomes something terrible (a scene in The Great Divorce comes to mind). I wonder then how it must have been for Mary, whose Son was not only flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood, but also God incarnate. And it makes me suspect that perhaps Mary has tasted of the deepest despair of any human that has ever lived. I imagine that to watch one’s child die is a terrible thing–to watch one’s child who is the divine Word made flesh is something beyond my imagination.
I remember that the very first thing that turned my heart toward Christ was when I really comprehended his cry on the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.” This was God himself experiencing the anguish and despair of being forsaken by God. It was the first time I realized that I had something ‘in common’ with God–that He could understand me in the one way that defined my very existence–separation from God. This idea came out much later in a poem I wrote:
I could not love God with all my heart
Did he not understand and know
My saddest and most lonely parts.
To realize that the creator Himself had willingly chosen to “become nailed to my poor planet” was a turning point in my life, because I knew then that I was justified in sensing the gaping void that existed between God and myself, but I saw that even that gaping void had been experienced and conquered by Christ. I could understand God partaking in our joy and laughter and merriment, but to comprehend a God that has partaken of despair, death, and desolation took the cry of a Man nailed to a tree.
Let the thought of his Death point us towards a life more abundant. There is no place His love cannot find us–because he was, we are never forsaken. This poem’s glimpse of Mary’s participation in the redemption of mankind should lead us eventually to a contemplation of repentance.