A Letter to an Unborn Child: Chris Mann

Reflection of a candle in the window on a rainy night

Tonight, your mother and I, romantic still, intend to open our star-filled window and in the light of a candle first lit at our wedding, to bring your being, waiting already within us, into fuller life.

Your mother, with forehead smudged, has laboured all day to paint a canvas reality of trees. It fills us with wonder, that we who are used to the sweat of design, the pain of composition and revision, can hope, merely in a flash of joy, to usher in new life, the spark, moist and complex, wriggling in darkness, that’s you.

Being spring, the season is right for such a seeding. May the night’s tranquillity, the glimmering light of the stars, be gifts to cherish in your bones.

And should you ever, growing older, search your origins for the moods, the protein motions that nurtured you, don’t think a share of sorrow, of nightmare, remorse and illness was never, with ecstasy, not also ours.

Our choice, to build a space in which your being, molecule by molecule could emerge, is tinged with trepidation. It rises from a reverence, inchoate yet real, for the shaping spirit that we ourselves are children of.

And when, growing older, you see our imperfections, the frail glasswork of our dreams, remember this: that the night, the stars, this blue-quilted bed were wondrous to your parents.

You were conceived in love.

[From ‘Epiphanies’, by Chris Mann, published by The Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, 2017. After 15 years of poverty alleviation work in rural areas, Chris Mann moved with his family to Grahamstown, where he convenor of Wordfest South Africa, and Professor Emeritus of Poetry at Rhodes University]


somewhere i have never travelled: ee cummings

(This poem is usually trotted out as a love poem to cummings’ ‘muse’, but from the moment I saw my first daughter being born I knew it was for her!)

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

e.e. cummings

i am a little church: e.e. cummings

i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
–i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church (far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
–i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)


Mary’s Song: Luci Shaw

Mary’s song

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest…
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfied
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

Luci Shaw

Made flesh: Luci Shaw

Made flesh

the bright beam of hot annunciation
fused heaven with dark earth
his searing sharply focused light
went out for a while
eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
his cool immensity of splendor
his universal grace
small-folded in a warm dim
female space–
the Word stern-sentenced
to be nine months dumb–
infinity walled in a womb
until the next enormity–
the Mighty, after submission
to a woman’s pains
helpless on a barn-bare floor
first-tasting bitter death

I in him surrender
to the crush and cry of birth.
Because eternity
was closeted in time
he is my open door
to forever.
From his imprisonment my freedoms grow,
find wings.
Part of his body, I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark I glow.
My life, as his,
slips through death’s mesh,
time’s bars,
joins hands with heaven,
speaks with stars.

by Luci Shaw