May you be openings through which better light can shine.
Every Christmas Eve, I listened to the best story, holding my breath as my father read word by precarious word. About the time when
I say “precarious” because my father had a speech impediment:Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
He wouldn’t like me to draw attention to his impediment – that he stuttered. He worked all his life to overcome it, to work around it, to be so smart and quick in other ways that any slowness of speech became unremarkable.He stutteredeach sentence like shuttersbanging in the wind I hadto learn to listenfor more than words to sitsilent holding backmy quick inaccuratetranslations until hewrestled his own wordsout panting into the open
When I read my poem above to him -- I had meant it as an act of love and forgiveness for the angers of my teenage years -- he sat back like I had just slapped him. I think all he heard was lack and failings.
He didn’t hear how it was the very slowness of his speech that opened the story for me. How his slow and careful reading, slowed me. Made me see, instead of swiftly skating over. Made me hear.
The way he read, even through the years when we were so often angry at each other, let the starlight and the light of love in the mother’s and the child’s eyes shine in and fill me. Made me feel how it could possibly be that an all-powerful and flawless Love, the Creator of the universe, could enter into this broken world of anger and taxes and the wandering poor, a world which thought it had no room for Him.
So that now, any one else’s voice is never as good -- is too quick, too slick, too sure of itself. Now when I read these words to myself,
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
I read it slow and hesitating, wondering, trembling a little, remembering how as a child
I would shut
my eyes hunkering
down until the fretwork
opened and there
in the articulated hes-
words see starlight see
lantern's glow on
heaped straw see the shifting
feet of cattle their warmth
their whuffling breath the lamb’s small
bleat and far off the icy voice
for I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people
And now I am the mother, with you, my Gaps and Failings, the ways I stutter in the language of love. Now I can only hope my children can hear around you and through you and despite you that same clear singing that I heard and hear still.
Ah, that singing, hear it ringing, earthward winging, Christmas bringing,
Hearken! We can hear it, too.
[revised from Dec. 2009: "where there is room" ]