Deborah Beach Giordano
© February 7, 2013
Is it true?
Is that you, my Lady, Precious Birdie,
crossing my threshold
on this cold February day?
I thought you’d be taller, paler, slender –
a celestial version
of the cloudwhite taper
I alighted in your honor.
Instead today you show yourself in the guise of Crone:
bending low in rough green wool,
burdened by the weight of great knowledge,
your steps slowed by the accumulation of ages long-past.
Feet clad not in delicate ladyslippers,
but sturdy wooden clogs;
your steady, solid footfalls both reassuring
and a bit frightening.
You’ve come not to dance, but to advise;
to teach and educate.
Today it’s serious business.
No foolishness or girlish giggles,
but a stern Wise Woman’s words.
Mary’s Midwife has come to call.
Seating yourself beside me, I try to slide away,
but there is no escape.
Whoever said it was surely right:
“Be careful for what you pray!”
With trepidation I watch as,
face hidden beneath the thistle-snagged hood,
you uncover all that you’ve brought to me.
Dried herbs and depleted dandelions,
a wizenbrowned apple from my yard, an earthenware cup
– into which I immediately pour some tea –
and some of the reeds used to make your cross.
Leaning over to look into the basket,
our two heads touch
in an attitude of prayer.
“What can I say?” I ask.
There is no reply,
only quiet, patient, waiting.
It is a pregnant silence
that demands something of me.
I squirm and twitch and scratch my nose,
clear my throat and clean my eyeglasses.
At length I finally shake my head and sigh,
“I’ve fallen short, I know.”
A sudden snap
like a mouse in a trap;
a sting like a bee on my thigh.
You’ve slapped me with that reed!
Astonished and abashed I rub my leg and admit,
“Ow! Oh yes, yes, of course you’re right:
I’m too ready to overlook my faults,
and far too eager to dismiss my own sins.
“That there are souls more smudged than mine
is hardly a cause for smug rejoicing,
and wicked deeds done by others
do not excuse my own.
“I claim to be the Lord’s, and call you my friend and sister,
yet I complain, curse and condemn,
as if the Message of Jesus
was directed to someone other than me.”
A slight nod, a half-revealed smile.
Across the room a silken blue flame arises from the fire,
quivering in the wind that puffs down the chimney
like a woman in labor.
With a groan I continue, “My anger at injustice is
no longer a spark which fuels my work,
but a devouring fire consuming my compassion
– and my soul, as well.
“I have started to despise ‘those others, those bad guys’;
withholding all sympathy and fellow-feeling.
I would willingly consign them to the depths of Hell:
dust to dust, asses to ashes.
“But the joke, I fear, is on me.” A tear falls on my hand.
As I reach up to wipe away its trace I find another, and another.
All at once there is a deluge.
“I’ve chosen hot anger over cold despair,” I cry.
“But rage doesn’t make me feel better or more powerful:
it only makes me sad,”
with a gasp, as though delivered from an awful fall,
I continue, “It’s killing me, instead.
“Love alone can change the world,
love that blesses, heals, and prays,
love that continues to hope and believe
and never turns away.”
There is a stirring beside me;
the hand that reaches out to mine is soft and white and fair,
her basket now filled with flowers,
the rotted apple has become a tender bud.
The Lady arises and throws off her robe
revealing a bright, beribboned party dress,
with a sweet smile she heads for the door,
her farewell blessing as tender as a kiss.
And I remain, still and speechless
my heart aglow in gratitude
at the miracle I had witnessed,
Saint Brigid right here in my living room,
who could guess
that our sweet compassionate Midwife
had come to assist
at the birth of the Christ child in me?