by Johanna Caton
I. the northern Northern Hemisphere is no sphere for humans: cold, old snow black with car-splash next to black roads, the landscape bleared as a child’s old paint-box. The mind feels blank and dropped into a daily dreary ache; the clock ticks, each tock marking an age, each age marked with the smear of sameness. But ear, sometimes clearer than eye, more able to find spirit, hears a bird tuning his tune, the neumes simple and clean. An avian solo! Slightly piano, but a keen arrow piercing eons – even heaven. Amid blur of leafless trees, of chore and ennui, the winged tune reminds of a rounder, riper scene – prayer’s gift, its secret found: a pact with Angel Gabriel – heart-sounder, first sounding the streets of Nazareth before stepping into her room and softly singing her awake. II. She awoke slowly, her eyes opening on her baby as he quietly cooed and gurgled. He so rarely cried. He dribbled with love as their eyes met and his mouth opened in a wide smile all gums and delight, wiggling and waving tiny hands with their fine nails, each one a burnished pearl; seeing them, she felt a wound, a chill and foreboding. He would be presented in the Temple today. She tried not to think of what he would undergo. The day unfolding in strangeness, in grey, she rose to take him in her arms and nurse. She heard the insistent thrill of one bird. Winter stillness, and song-spill of sparrow – no other sound to wring her. She gathered his blanket closely and inhaled the sharp scent of his soft hair, She felt the tiny mouth pull, she wondered again at the infant her body had roomed. Then she knew what wrung: the bird-song was like the angel’s tune when he came that night and sang till she awoke.
Johanna Caton, O.S.B., is a Benedictine nun of Minster Abbey in England. Originally from Virginia, she lived in the U.S. until adulthood, when her monastic vocation took her to Britain. Her poems have appeared in both online and print publications, including The Christian Century, The Windhover, A Time of Singing, Amethyst Review, The Ekphrastic Review and the Catholic Poetry Room webpage at integratedcatholiclife.org. Some of her poems can be found at www.integratedcatholiclife.org/?s=johanna+caton