Mary in poetry with her one gleaming, antiseptic star

The twist Advent takes for me as we move from darkness to light is in realizing that something (a word, a light)  is growing inside the darkness of  a womb, in the ancient stories we have about Jesus. “The darkness shall be the darkness of God” TS Eliot said (as posted earlier) and that darkness is a waiting, gestation period. The darkness of a womb. It has to happen in order for life to happen. The things poets write about the annunciation and Mary strike me because of that–turning to a darkness which is full of hope and expectation, though still not sure what it all means.  This poet asks the question, “what right did God have to take on flesh so out of season” and imagines Mary in labor, choosing “one gleaming antiseptic star” to focus on.

by Lynn Ungar

The trees have finally
shaken off their cloak
of leaves, redrawn
themselves more sternly
against the sky. I confess
I have coveted this
casting off of flesh,
have wished myself
all line and form, all God.

I confess that I am caught
by the story of Christmas,
by the pronouncement of the Spirit
upon Mary’s plain flesh.
What right did the angel
have to come to her
with the news of that
unprovided, unimaginable
birth?  What right
had God to take on flesh
so out of season?

When Mary lay gasping
in water and blood
that was of her own body
but not her own
did she choose one gleaming,
antiseptic star to carry
her through the night?

The flesh has so few choices,
the angels, perhaps, none.
The trees will shake themselves
and wait for spring.
The angels, unbodied, will clutch
the night with their singing.
And Mary, like so many,
troubled and available,
will hear the word:

 The power of the Most High 
               will overshadow you

And in her flesh, respond.


from “Blessing the Bread: Meditations” 1996, Skinner House Books, Boston.


One thought on “Mary in poetry with her one gleaming, antiseptic star

  1. Tuhina says:

    Holly, thank you for sharing this poem. It’s amazing, wonderful, disturbing, and powerful. Thank you for reminding me that this is a time pregnant with possibility.

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