Remember a time before the big, important occasions
that made it into the book, before the winemaking
and the raising from the dead.
Remember you were a girl, and a boy brought you flowers.
The moon moved and another boy brought you flowers.
It looked like that
was the way it was going to be for a while, boys
in procession with the gold and red flowers
of the desert, the free-for-the-asking
pomp of a land that once was paradise.
One day it was an angel. One day it was an angel
bearing one stark, white lily.
Do you remember what was beautiful to you then?
Do you recall who turned your head
with his armloads of flowers?
One boy was different from the others, being divine,
but did he not come with his hair in his eyes,
bashful and stammering like the rest?
O! He was blinding white, you say. His beauty
was the lightning cast upon the mountain.
You found you could forgive him even that.
Did he not offer what they all offered, another name
and the destiny of children in the place
where your own destiny had been?
If he offered a crown, was it a crown of sorrows,
or was that a gift opened slowly, year after year,
the tolling of a bell in the darkness?
One for the One who watches Israel;
Two for the figures on the road to Bethlehem;
Three for the God made perfect in your womb.
Mother of sorrows,
Maiden of mirth,
Cup of begetting,
White knife of birth,
Fountain of song,
Dame of white dreams
The dark drags along.
Virgin most married,
Queen of the night,
Hawk among swallows
In their curving flight.
Lady of ladies,
Mother of man,
In your two arms’ span.
Mother of the falcon.
Mother of the fox,
Held in my heart
Like a jewel in a box.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.