And Now for Something Completely Different

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Annunciation lately, so I’ve decided to dust off an old poem I wrote when Charlotte was a baby. I hope you enjoy it, and I would welcome any criticisms! Really, I’d love to improve it, so any concrete suggestions will be very appreciated.

(But please don’t write “this is horrible” in the comment box. If it is horrible, at least tell me why.)

After the Annunciation
She must have thought something  then,
alone again,
(water running heedless through her hair)
one hand pressed against her abdomen,
one against her mouth.
It would be wonderful to think  her thoughts were joy,
pure gratitude,
radiating through her otherwise empty mind.
But there must have been panic…
at least a bit.
She would have been too good,
too faithful for such lowbrow thoughts like “shit…
What do I do now?”
No, she would have been humbled, felt gratitude,
her thoughts just edged with panic.
Human panic, whispering
“no one will believe me”
(as the water drips in waves off her hair)
“no one will listen.”
It may have been
Just then,
Walking through empty side streets
With the empty water jug,
Forgotten,
Banging against her untouched thigh…
It may have been then that,
Seized with all that it is to be woman,
She leaned over and heaved,
Holding her own wet hair out of her face
(her eyes streaming involuntary tears)
And perhaps she gave herself the liberty of one small sob.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12557248434888642114 Melanie B

    Beautiful.

  • Stephanie Anderson

    Calah, I love reading your blog! You are a brilliant writer. It's fun to read about your life and what you have going on. I got to see your mom a couple of weeks ago which was a blast. You have such a beautiful family! Congratulations!

  • Michelle M.

    Dear Calah,It is a lovely poem up until the last stanza. Since Mary was perfect and free from Original Sin, she did not experience any labor pains when delivering Jesus. In fact, the Church Fathers teach that he was born as a light passes through glass. This explains why she remained a virgin even after his birth. Since she did not experience any pains while giving birth to Him, I don't see how she could have experienced any morning sickness while carrying him. I think you have struck enough of a chord by painting a picture of her fear that no one would believe her without adding the picture of her puking in the last stanza. Thanks for sharing and for working so hard on your blog.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12557248434888642114 Melanie B

    Calah, I'd agree that the image in the final stanza gave me pause, though Michelle states her objection rather more strongly than I would have. My understanding was that the question of Mary's labor pains etc is more an area of theological speculation and tradition rather than settled Church doctrine. (Dom and I have had lots of discussions about how when he was studying theology at Steubenville they'd have long late-night discussions such as whether being preserved from original sin and being in posession of her preternatural gift would mean that Mary never suffered from acne.) So yes, there is a long tradition reaching back to the Church Fathers that Mary suffered no labor pains (that is expressed much more strongly in the Eastern churches than in the West). And certainly one can extrapolate that to mean she wouldn't have suffered from morning sickness, etc; but I wouldn't necessarily say that puts any poetic exploration of the topic out of bounds. Especially as Calah's poem touches on it in such a delicate way: "It may have been that…"Having suffered pretty bad morning sickness with my first pregnancy, I'll have to say the image spoke to me in my own experience even while it took me aback for seeming to be pushing the bounds of theological speculation. As I re-read it, it isn't clear from the poem that the action must be read as morning sickness. It seems it could also be read as somehow Mary identifying with the human condition, somehow foreseeing, feeling the enormity of all that her call to share in Christ's sacrifice, her walk with him to Calvary, will entail. Perhaps a srt of precursor to the moment in the Temple with Simeon and the sword of sorrow that will pass through her heart. Especially this evocative line: "Seized with all that it is to be woman," which seems to be modifying the action of leaning over to heave. What does that mean "all that it is to be woman?" There's so much to ponder in the space that line opens up.It speaks to me of the way I turned to Mary when I was sick and pregnant, knowing that she understands my weakness and suffering as only a mother can, even if she didn't have the exact same experiences. So maybe she didn't have morning sickness; but what if the image really conveys how she still suffers with me in my morning sickness? Poetry speaks a different language than theology, pushes us into different places. A theologian might come down firmly on the no heaving side. A poet might find room to slip the image in.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632005486245515873 Calah

    Stephanie-Thank you! I'm glad you like the bog. Likewise, I've been reading about your trip to Ethiopa, and wow. You're so amazing. It sounds increcible. Michelle-Melanie took the words right out of my mouth. Thank you, Melanie, for doing such a beautiful and undoubtedly more coherent job of responding than I would have. I will clarify a few things though. First, Michelle, thank you for your comment. I do believe that Melanie is correct, that it is not actual dogma that Mary did not suffer labor pains or that Jesus was born in that manner. Personally I do not agree with either of those things, for reasons that I won't go into here. As it relates to the poem, though, the image of Mary throwing up wasn't meant to be implying morning sickness, but rather a physical reaction to the enormity of the role she had just taken on. I don't have trouble thinking that she would have had such a physical reaction; after all, she was perfect, but she was still human, and had just accepted the heaviest cross ever borne by a woman. That was the image I was going for. My husband was concerned that I had presented a debased image of Mary, but I disagree. For me, seeing her as someone who was still essentially human, who could be overwhelmed and could react to her duty even while accepting it in perfect love is a great comfort. I hope that I didn't offend you with the image of her throwing up; that was certainly not my intent. I meant to show her the way I believe she truly was, as someone who was perfect, yes, but still human. Someone who we can fly to in trials knowing that she, too, has felt pain and uncertainty. Melanie of course expressed this much better than I am doing. I hope that answers your concern. I'm glad for the criticism, but that particular image is one of the most important parts of the poem, in my mind, and one of the ones that shows her as I imagine she was. Thank you all for your comments!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11889780681891693861 Sarah

    I love this. I also love Melanie's comments. Scott Hahn also wrote in Hail, Holy Queen (which I just finished) that she may indeed have felt pain in bearing Jesus, in that this was a spiritual or emotional pain foreshadowing the sorrow she would experience at the foot of the Cross. It makes sense to me. Anyway, this is a well crafted poem. :)


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