Romanian Grace

The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem

14 December, 2007

Thine advent here XI

My fingers are painfully frozen and so move across the keyboard like imbeciles.  This could take a while.  I will try to avoid mistakes.  The reason they are frozen is that I have been getting the car prepared for a little excursion tomorrow (my semester is officially over as I graded the last papers and exams of 2007 a few hours ago).  Looks like I will be heading to the mountains for some fun in the snow with one or two of my German friends (one of "ze Germans," as I am fond of calling them collectively).  The snow ought to be deep out there.  We just got about four inches yesterday, but it was a cold rain long before anything accumulated, and there ought to have been a bunch of snow on the ground already.  So we will be going equipped with snowshoes.  I bought a pair last year and never got to use them.  It did not snow nearly as much after Christmas as I thought it would.  But I have already gone once this year and have determined that it is the most fun thing I have ever done in the snow.  

Some of you will wonder what I meant by "the car" above.  I have borrowed my landlady's 100 year old Volvo.  It's great.  We won't be having any conversations on the way out there, that's for sure, but it will get us where we want to go...I hope.  It's a metallic blue small hatchback with a couple hundred thousand miles on it (something like 350k kilometers).  I will post pictures tomorrow or sometime.  

Now, on to more important business.  Today's poem is, honestly one of my favorites from A Widening Light, which I have mentioned before and which you ought to buy yourself for Christmas.

**Caveat: If you suspect that you are easily offended and desire not to be by an Advent poem, stop reading now and come back tomorrow.  

God tries on skin

Once, he stretched skin over spirit
like a rubber glove,
aligning trinity with bone,
twining through veins
until deity square-knotted flesh.

In a whirlwind spin
he shrank to the size of a zygote,
bobbed in a womb warm as Galilee's shore.

In the dark,
he brushed up on Hebrew,
practiced his crawl.

After months scrunched in a circle,
he burst through his cellophane sac,
bloodied the teen legs
spread on the straw.

In his first breath 
he inhaled the sweat
of Romans casting lots,
sniffed the wine mixed with the gall.

Marjorie Maddox Phifer

The sound-quality of this poem is a rare thrill.  Actually, it is what I live for as a reader of poetry.  Sound combinations like: "crawl... straw... gall," or "months scrunched in a circle," or "size of a zygote," or "bobbed in a womb warm as Galilee's shore" achieve every good poet's end of maximizing effect with minimal words.  I don't think entire books on the Incarnation could do as much as those few words.  How awkward, artificial, and even ludicrous it was for God to become flesh.  How offensive.  The rubber glove image at the start hints at something like a "procedure."  The Holy God doesn't undergo "procedures," however,... does He?  Does God "bob"?  The absurdity of it all.  I say again what I keep coming back to myself.  Christ's humiliation, and ultimately His atonement for us, did not begin on the cross or in Gethsemane, it began in Royal David's city, in a manger for a bed.  It began in a small, warm, virgin womb. God confined.  God limited.  God something out of a biology textbook.  Unthinkable.  But no less true.  


At 15/12/07 14:57, Blogger Abigail Hartman said...

snowboarding was great today. hope you had fun snowshoeing.

At 26/1/08 07:06, Blogger Avery said...

Suggestion for the day. My new favorite poet is Billy Collins. He was the poet laureate a number of years back. Give him a try, I own 'picnic, lightning' and 'questions about angels.' If you get an itch to read any, let me know, I'm sure we can send a package over.

At 26/1/08 17:00, Blogger IrelandRomania said...

Avery, I'm in step with you. I drew from him extensively to teach a poetry section last year. Have you read On Turning Ten? Amazing Thanks.


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