What Child Is This? (A Haibun)

Aristotle wrote that women are incomplete men. I was raised on this with my mother’s milk. What is a girl when your firstborn could have been a boy. In my mother’s eyes, shame. In my father’s, disappointment, shame. Flawless would be a boy. Flawed would be me.

Christmas with a baby at the center just turned up the drollery of fate. Each year’s gift whispered, “Be a man. Someone notable. Do that for us and we will love you.” How unkind to have only a girl child to celebrate the birth of a King!

What child is this? Daddy asks. Mummy echoes, What child is this?

I ask, Dear God, What Child is this?

“What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?”1

Now Christmas comes to a woman whose hair is thinning, whose hands and feet are deformed with disease, whose gait is slow, whose back is bent. Not under the weight of shame. She sees the One in the manger born and wonders that Love came down into the muck of a world where children cry themselves to sleep and no one hears or cares. Jesus, You came a long way. And so did I with You.

This, this One died lonely
tree-hung to save a girl child
from pitiless hands

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Philippians 2:5-11
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1What Child Is This?

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?

(Refrain)This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him!
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!

Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!

William Chatterton Dix, “What Child Is This?” (1865)
“What Child is This” – Violinist: Lindsey Stirling
Donna's Go Dog Go Cafe’s Inaugural Haibun Wednesday
Eugi's Weekly Prompt: "notable"

Irwin’s Dad

I remember Irwin’s Dad
Drafted to war in Vietnam
And never came back.

But a coffin came draped in a flag
And all the tears his mother cried
Meant Irwin’s life had changed.

Irwin smiled at the stories I told
He was always the first to laugh
At my marionette dancing on stage.

Irwin was just four, his mother’s joy,
Me not much older but oh, I knew
He would always miss his Dad.

If you see a veteran today, remember
There’s an Irwin’s Dad they sorrow o’er
And a son like Irwin too.


On this Veteran’s Day, 11/11/2021, thank you to all the veterans who served our country!

For image attribution and a history of Veteran’s Day, click here.

Unbereaved (a haibun)

Frank at dVerse asks us to write a haibun (prose plus haiku) dealing with fear. Unlike the trumped up fear of Halloween games, there are real fears that children deal with at the hands of a parent, their childhood stolen. Perhaps years from now in their adulthood, one will thank you because you noticed and cared. 
Kathleen Munn, Composition (Horses), c. 1927

Nightmares when they roughshod ride primeval, cross cave walls and closet doors, charm no one, least of all you, appearing on site like a combative cow to remind me that when you gave birth it was in pain, a pain that didn’t end with birth. For you it won’t be enough that the shamanic horse runs wild torment across my plain features, flushed hot, now cold with fear, gaping at the undisclosed terrain of days yet unrun, populated by masked faces finding a home where I cannot. Flesh-like you appear to say, “I screamed bloody murder, you devouring me inside out, the doctor said, literally, you were eating me alive, like some malnutritioned demon-child, and I’m just a shadow of myself. To haunt you. In whatever caves you may roam. Gypsy-cursed.”

Have you seen a cow eat its calf? A hen pluck out its chick’s eyes? A mother hate her child? From where does this malformation derive than in red misery, bitter burning coals, stone-shaped eyes that glitter from the grave to shriek and shriek and shriek?

I fear you. But it’s not what you think. Though you’re dead your pain inflicts me. Your strained neck as you push onward defying all but gravity, defying the gods of nature to take from you the child you will punish because you can’t punish them.

steel-born heart in sheath
trampled plain of childhood’s corpse
nightmare by firelight

Continuum

Salvador Dalí. (Spanish, 1904-1989). The Persistence of Memory. 1931

Five minutes ago
insurance was on the phone
something needed watching
a chore couldn’t be ignored
prescriptions waited in the hallway
voices cluttered up the inbox
the sun was breaking hot
motes star-fished into eyes
death landed on the floor
space folded into halves
you went into your room
the music turned up loud
in the spaces of my heart
where you still pace and pray
the speakers turned up high
distance crumpling in my hand
the clock stretched round a bend
five minutes ago


For dVerse's Open Link Night 293 hosted by Lisa. Click on Mr. Linky and meet us there!

You Were Four

Her father died on June 27, 2021 of covid.

You were four with a Daddy
when you laid out dancing colors
of pink, blue, green and purple

When you were four and a day
the colors went orange viral
of corona, corona everywhere

You sat half-hidden in shadow
your diamond father stolen from you
with black words like ICU

Now pink, blue, green and purple
have fled a world of frightening red
your mother widowed in white

And you are four and counting
looking back at days of gray
a rainbow shining over you: we pray


Reena at Xploration Challenge gives us an update on the four-year-old pictured above: “I came across a heart-wrenching picture of a drawing by a 4-year old, whose father [was] battling lung failure due to Covid in hospital. When asked what was it she had drawn, she said “Corona, Corona …. Everywhere Corona.” The entire family was infected, but all others have recovered…. She lost her father today. Her mother, whom I see as an exceptionally strong woman, fought till the end, staying afloat with her Buddhist beliefs and chanting “Nam myth renge Kyo.” It kept her going, if nothing else. She is totally deflated now, after the incident. She, who led a fatherless life (her father being a drug-addict), just uttered the words ‘My daughters will meet the same fate.'”

I Saw A Guillemot Fall Today

Common guillemot

I saw a guillemot fall today
off the nesting cliffs
before it caught the wind;
I saw it snatched by a seagull’s bill
fast-disappearing in its maw.
Lazarus-like it emerged again
and I caught my breath for joy,
when swept down another gull
to swallow the fledgling whole.

Nature’s mien is none too keen
on compassion for the young.
The weak it passes over lightly
as fodder for the strong.
The world smiles at peace
entraps hopeful souls
then dogs of war do feed
while songbirds chirp
and children sing
of innocence and joy.

What means this? cries the philosopher
writing down his ethics.
Why it’s nature versus nurture,
exclaims the educationist.
Oh, hollow man, feed on love,
the poet strums a tune.
The guillemot parents of a fledgling bird
hear not the empty words.
They see beyond a skeptic’s sight
to an ordaining hand, and flying easy
from an empty nest, they’ll return again in spring.

Oh God, who takes away and gives,
our wounded hearts you see!
O give us strength to bear the pain
and rest in faith again.
Our grief we give to you once more
and pray our sight you’ll clear
to see the hope of eternal days
when tears no more we’ll fear.


Job 12: 7-10
[Job speaks] “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.”

 

 

Love Me, Love Me Not

There are so many cliches about love, the word, perhaps, has lost its power, but not the notion, not the need, not the knowledge that love’s very presence makes life worth living. In one of his most famous poems (“In My Craft or Sullen Art”), Welsh poet Dylan Thomas speaks of lovers with “their arms round the griefs of the ages” which is curious, as if in embracing one another, they embrace grief, and not just each other’s but those universal.

Ack! What kind of love is this? you might ask.

Anyone who’s been married longer than a decade (or three, in my case) knows that this expresses the height of love. The willingness to bear another’s griefs rather than turn and walk away is love’s absolute zenith, its most precious characteristic. You don’t run away from the pain of those you truly love. Instead, you embrace it with them, faithfully, day after day after day.

And because no one’s life is without its griefs, we often say that we shouldn’t judge a person until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Sorrow and pain are universals. Beyond any happiness, we can readily sympathize with suffering. Each of us carries our pain within us. There are voiceless cries and unshed tears behind every smile we see. And apprehending the universality of our hidden hurts binds us more completely to one another than anything that divides us.

Emily Dickinson realizes this in her poem “I measure every Grief I meet” and while reading it, it struck me that our Lord Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves begins with this understanding, to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).”May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other,” St. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians.

Christ Himself, of course, set the example. He was, as the prophet Isaiah described him, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53: 3, 4). “Blessed be the Lord,” the psalmist writes, “who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation” (Ps. 68:19, NASB). Because he does, He is where our hearts find their rest.

It’s not easy to help shoulder someone’s grief, not simply in the context of marriage and family, but also those of our friends and neighbors, even our enemies. Yet God commands us to love (Matt. 5:44), even as He loves us, and the way is the way of the Cross, our own and each other’s.

Emily Dickinson, “I measure every Grief I meet” (1830-1886)

audio reading ℗2020 dora a.k.

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, Eyes —
I wonder if It weighs like Mine —
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long —
Or did it just begin —
I could not tell the Date of Mine —
It feels so old a pain —

I wonder if it hurts to live —
And if They have to try —
And whether — could They choose between —
It would not be — to die —

I note that Some — gone patient long —
At length, renew their smile —
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil —

I wonder if when Years have piled —
Some Thousands — on the Harm —
That hurt them early — such a lapse
Could give them any Balm —

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve —
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love —

The Grieved — are many — I am told —
There is the various Cause —
Death — is but one — and comes but once —
And only nails the eyes —

There’s Grief of Want — and Grief of Cold —
A sort they call “Despair” —
There’s Banishment from native Eyes —
In sight of Native Air —

And though I may not guess the kind —
Correctly — yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary —

To note the fashions — of the Cross —
And how they’re mostly worn —
Still fascinated to presume
That Some — are like My Own —

Isaiah 53: 2-5

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (NIV) 

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.