A Woman Wrapped in Silenceby John W. Lynch.
But when across the years we see her so,
Our generation finds it hard to think
Of her as one with us. Our stains have made
Us hesitant, and sad remembrance curls
And turns within to slow the prideful binding
To ourselves, as if the very claim
Could soil in her the grace whose essence is
It is not soiled. This name is benediction
On our blood, defence and refuge, hope
And harbor, and our one fair memory
Of innocence, and we have known too long
Its silence on the world's wild clamoring
Not now to know this name is uttered prayer
And not a name.
And yet, the gifts that were
To weigh her heart will find already there
Bewilderment, and seated fears, and sight
That moved no farther than her vision ran,
And God gave her to see. Not true to think
Her tears were not as salt as tears may be,
And not as real. It is not true to say
Her sweetness made a cushion for the blows
That fell on her, and left her warmed and snug
Against the starkness of the staring night.
This voice could laugh, and sob, and sing, and cry:
This was a woolen garment that she wore
About her tired shoulders, and the hands
That brushed the weight of hair from off her brow
Were roughened with the water jars, and knew
The feel of sunlight and the form of bread.
Not strange is this, and we have always known
It true, that she was one with us, and yet,
We've built so many towers in our skies,
So often flung the great stones up for her
To ease the heart's full need, and be a praise
To stand above the years' long pondering;
So often have we turned the litanies,
Strung out so many garlands, while her bells
Have called to us, and kneeling we have sighed
In such dear confidence...
We scarce remember
Now that once this name was spoken softly
In a time before the Aves rang.
Perhaps across some threshold it was said,
So casually, by one who called to her,
"Mary." Then, she might have turned and come,
Obedient from where the children played
Together in the dusk: and no one knew
That more was said than just a young girl's name.
No, not true to think that then her feet
Were visibly upon the serpent's head,
And stars ringed visibly about her brow.
Except for gentleness and modesty,
The grace she held in fullness, was as grace
We hold, a silent gift, unknown, if knowing
Be the shattering of earthly molds
And loosing of the need for watchfulness.
No deep, relentless tide of ecstasy
Swept over her, to carry her beyond
The world she knew, and make her stranger here.
The dawn was cold, and in the dark, the wind
Still spoke of other dawns, and all her days
Were labor and were vigilance. And peace
That made its quietness in her was peace
God gave, since she had made a place for it
By tired hands and a heart that did not tire.