Beth mentioned Mary and the Annunciation to me. I, an atheist, googled and was reminded of - touched by - Mary, troubled by Gabriel’s awful announcement. Who would not be troubled? I’ve secularised the ending here without, I hope, entirely corrupting it. A timid feint towards vers libre
A table, sturdy, quite a craftsman’s job,
Supports a cruse of oil in which a flame,
Gutters an orange glow which circulates
Uncertain circles on the heat-baked floor.
Light to inform the evening’s minor tasks
A rest from daytime’s harder labouring,
More fit for finer fingers and an eye
That understands the lines of warp and woof.
A linen apron needing TLC,
Roughed by the surfaces of plain-cut beams,
Slit by a blade that slipped against a knot,
The wood’s not what it was ten years ago.
It’s woman’s work to make good manly flaws,
A carpenter must choose a useful wife,
And Mary takes the needle in her stride,
Nipping the thread off with an expert bite.
Another hole to darn, her head is bent,
As plangent words fill corners of the room.
With talk of greetings, blessings soon to come,
A child, a son, a kingdom without end.
Mary’s a’feared, is calmed, told not to fear,
Yet worries still about this motherhood.
For who’s to darn and meet her husband’s needs,
As he works wood to pay for infant food?
Raising her head she sees embracing light,
With power that suffocates the oil-cruse flame,
That steers the needle’s point through linen cloth,
That threads the hitch that says the work is done.
Light to proclaim the shades of right from wrong,
To prove the how and why of intellect,
To stem the tide of brutish ignorance,
To point the way to new equality.