(So I’m a little embarrassed by how long it’s been since I’ve posted. But, come on, I’m in grad school. I’m tired.)
For the weeks of Advent, my pastor Phil is graciously allowing* me to bring poetry to Wits’ End for worship. Part of my own spiritual practice has been to seek out poetry that fits into the liturgy and speaks to the longing/hope/desperation of Advent.
The practice of finding poetry has been so incredible for me. That in itself is worship. And then reading the poem over and over again is like lectio divina.
I want to share with you the poem I’ve chosen for Sunday: “In the Kingdom of Pleasure” by Alan Shapiro. For me, this poem speaks to the temporal/timeless nature of Christ’s coming. Though it’s something that happened at a certain time and place (Bethlehem, ~4 BC) and is fixed within the Biblical narrative (as a kind of exodus story), the Incarnation takes place now, yesterday, and tomorrow. I find this poem also speaks to the fear of innocence lost, of peace destroyed. It’s as if your greatest gift was stolen away or taken back by its giver.
In the Kingdom of Pleasure
Unwitting accomplice in the scheme of law
she thought to violate, man-set as it was,
and, here, inconsequential as the sun
at midnight, drought at flood-time—
when she heard a baby in the tall reeds
at the river’s brink, she was nobody’s
daughter, subject of no rule
but the one his need for her established
as she knelt down to quell his crying
with a little tune just seeing him there
had taught her how to hum.
Now as then,
it is the same tune, timelessly in time,
your mother hums as she kneels down
beside your little barge of foam,
smiling to see you smile when she wrings
out from the sponge a ragged string
of water over the chest and belly,
the dimpled loins, the bud so far
from flowering, and the foot slick
as a fish your hand tries to hold up
till it slips back splashing
with such mild turbulence that she laughs,
and you laugh to see her laugh.
Here now, as it was then, it is still
so many years before the blood’s smeared
over doorposts, before the Nile clots
with the first-born, and the women
wailing,wailing throughout the city;
here now again is the kingdom of pleasure,
where they are safe still, mother and child,
from the chartered rod of the Fathers,
and where a father can still pray, Lord,
Jealous Chooser, Devouring Law, keep
away from them, just keep away.
* Allowing is more like he is celebrating my desire to bring poetry to church.