On February Second

by Johanna Caton


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 – 

first sounding the streets of Nazareth 
before stepping into her room and 
softly singing her


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

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