Cast from sleep on the edge of a March dawn
(Brain as empty as a beach
The arch above our bed dark as the firmament)
We lie and listen to the birds
Seeking in the garden outside the glass:
“Light, Light, who let there be light ?”
“We are glad for the light and the worms in the grass/’
But it was only we who heard their chirp as words:
Their praise was wordless as their wonderment;
Our task was still like Eve’s and Adam’s all day long
To speak the light of language to the universe.
The late light flakes blown by the dawn wind
In the garden are stars of ice and air and sparkle
In the dark-branched shrub of my lung.
In alveolar lace there iron rusts and rushes
Blood-borne to my body’s billion fires
Whose fuel is the heavy ash of stars,
Scattered from the novae of their pyres:
Carbon, and the ferrous rust that pushes
Wordless blood to my unbound tongue
To praise: that the God of the cosmos
Let the heavens come to speech in me.
Pouring from the west the sea-wind batters the town,
Strews branches like the wrack of tides
And warms the land with sea-smell.
The sea beats louder through the salt of my blood,
Whispers in my pink bones basinning basalt.
O You who wove me in the depths of earth and ocean,
Who at the birth of light and stars foresaw the far result
Of the wind of your spirit quickening my mud:
Let deeps of sea and continent rise up in me and tell
That the whispering in the earthquake and the surf
Is the shout of your life in we who are water and dust.
Standing on the thrusting grass by the choked pear-tree
The gnarled gardener is older than the trunk he tends.
The tendrils of the weed he strips from the limb
Have wrapped round both its twigs and his
And link the laddered acid of his seed
Back down to planet and to plant.
His fingers tend the garden’s need:
Yet the transpired breath of the garden is
The respired breath of his work, which is the hymn
Of his soul and the grown voice of the soil rejoicing:
That dropped and rotting seeds may blossom yet from the dirt.
Now in the darkening afternoon
The animals watch from the garden’s verge,
Shaped like versions of myself in the forests
of my sleep (Though I wake to kill them and eat).
Caught by their horns in our thickets they thresh
To escape us, the birds and the beasts.
And still through the ripped veils of their flesh
We enter with trampling feet
The violent sanctum of our unkept Keep:
And no slain lamb or ram nor any blood of bull
or dove Can give back the peace of our lost first task.
Image of God, we say, and image of the world:
Eve, sorrowing, and blest-for-all-of-mankind, Mary
(Ruth-like in the fields, hopeful in the reaped wheat
To glean the grace of her promised pain),
And Jesus, like a mother at the town’s dark side
Stretched with pain of making, and of making Man,
Who taught us how to be crucified
(We who would rather be slayers than slain);
He whom the Magdalene only could greet
At first as the gardener: Exactly the image of God—
Christ, who returned us the gardener’s task.
Creation waits now for the gardener to speak:
And the eager weeds await their release
From the bondage of being weeds.
Eden and Zion lie far apart
But atom and ocean, beasts and plants
Wait for the one who will grant them peace.
Then the planet will spin in a sabbath dance
(And the dancing place will be the heart).
Fruit will burgeon from scattered seeds
And garden and town be clean as a fleece
Early in the morning, on the first day of the week.
The Reformed Journal, no 4 Ap 1987, 10. 37.