in the space

Once upon a time, I wanted to be Mary. The Santa thing never really took hold in me so much as Mary’s story did, and I would imagine myself to be her: thirteen or so, pregnant, sitting side-saddle on a saddle-less donkey, making my loping way toward Bethlehem.

I was a dramatic child, drawn to drama, but Mary’s role– for all its quiet and humility– was the part I wanted most to play. I even scripted it, somewhere (was it?) at around 10 years old: the entire nativity, replete with wise men, and I was narrator and Mary both. Because she told the story again, didn’t she? Time and time again, the way all of us mothers want to talk about our labors and deliveries, tacitly reliving our amazement. Mary told herself that story– the Bible tells us as much, remembering it in her way, treasuring it in her heart.

I think I wanted to be her because I wanted to be the one to wrap that Baby in the swaddling clothes. I wanted to lay him in the manger, to take him up again, to hold him in my arms. Maybe I wanted to be Mary because I wanted to be a mother.

But it’s now, in being a mother, that I see her story differently: the horror and the heartache that it became. A sword would pierce her heart, because even losing a son when he’s thirty-three is losing him too soon, and who knows the joy that it had been to be the mother of that One, to have kissed the tender palms of her nursing infant, only so much later and all too soon to see them stretched, crucified, in pain.

I have imagined the fear of her delivery and the alien refuge of the stable, the sweetness of the baby’s weight in her arms, and the unspeakable, bottomless void in the days after His death. Blessed Mary. A sword, indeed.

A few weeks ago, our worship minister asked me to read this in church. I will be honest: I was at once crushed twice– by the weight of the words and by the sadness that I had not written them. Silly, I know. So I’ve decided to let the former reaction be the one that names me in this instance, and I will remind myself again that it is foolish to wish He’d given me something else and miss in the process being grateful for what I’ve been given.

And I will thank this poem’s author, Cheryl Lawrie, for the listening she has done so well, and for writing this down. Thank you.

in the space
the missing verses between Luke 2:6 and Luke 2:7

and in the space
between the full stop
and the capital letter
lies the untold story of
the birth of a baby

of the first moment she guessed it was
the unfamiliar pain
and rush of fluid
the cramping force
halting and hesitant
then fierce and determined

in the space between the full stop
and the capital letter
lies the moment she told him
it’s time
and he realised he’d never believed
that it was real

in the space between the full stop
and the capital letter
lies hours of screaming
till her fingers dig into the dirt
of the floor
and the wood
of the wall
and the skin
of his hand
and she wondered
he wondered
how she would

and in the space between the full stop
and the capital letter
lies his breathless anticipation
the worry when it all begins
that it will never end
that it will all go wrong
when it’s taking too long
and then it’s happening too fast
and then suddenly the desperation
of the last final push
and the rush
of the blood
and the fluid
and the baby
oh– the baby
slippery and sweet
and screaming
thank god

in the space between the full stop
and the capital letter
lies the bloodied body of the new born Christ
a boy
and did they wonder at his eyelashes
and his tiny lips
and did they breathe with relief
that the God born from her womb
was normal
with real tears
and a heartbeat

and did they wish the space
between the full stop
and the capital letter
were longer
that the story we know
ended there
and that the world lost interest
at the end of one sentence
so the next wouldn’t have to begin…

2 thoughts on “in the space

  1. My goodness. 2 weeks after giving birth, this hits a tender spot in me. I welcome it!
    I jump every time I see a new blog of yours. Thank you for feeding my inspiration, even in these foggy weeks of new motherhood (it feels new again). Hope you guys are well!


  2. Love it. At first, I thought you meant you wished you'd written the first part; I found that quite beautiful. I identify. I think quite a few young girls have a season of wanting to be Mary, and later on realizing how difficult her life had to have been.
    Merry Christmas. šŸ™‚


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