Two poems from One Hundred Lost Letters*
To sit in the choir, in silence – the mouth full of silence, the hands open, palms up; silence pouring down. Silence casts harmonics in the body – ears veiled from word and world. The night office is pooled in solemn hush. But silence is not dark: it is more like a mist; the plume of a breath in a background of snow. Silence is a white haze blooming over water. I sit in my stall. My soul unfurls along life’s ticking river.
He accepts our worship, the ribbed patterns of our days. Like chapels, each is made for light to pour through glass and gaps. Light shines like eternity into time’s interstices (we souls gathered inside). My sister makes her photographic negatives; each face is a smudge surprised by a halo – so a structure only serves to frame an unearned grace. Such is my thought, my confessor. Through loosening our gaze, we find this picture hidden in plain sight. It is everywhere and cannot be pinned down.
For half the day there is no sun. For half a life, perhaps, a soul must dwell without it. Where then is the grace? In a candle’s kiss – all light reduced to a flickering aureole. I have seen with my own eyes how the sun’s flame shines from one dark wick.
At Matins I saw that our God is not a god of reckoning. He does not care to count our debts and failings. Love is so much gold ink spilled across the ledger.
Last night I dreamt I was a bird with petals for feathers. I took off from the window ledge and flew towards the sun, shedding myself utterly.
If heaven is a fortune, I will spend it –
scatter God’s infinite matter like water,
let it shower down and quench
the parched world. If heaven is a flower
I will cast its petals over your wounds,
the satin-soft touch of my fingers
pattering their letters like a teacher
on her unseeing student; our lives
are full of love’s winged currency, and I
will show you a face made dear with dew.
*an ongoing project in which reflects on the lost letters sent by St Therese of Lisieux, 1873-97, to her confessor.
Grace Drifts Down Like Dust
Grace drifts down like dust
over the soul’s rough rocks,
settles in its crevices, scintilla
where even the light is blocked –
grace like fine flour sifting through
a grille to the lumpen heart.
I sit in the back pew (sunshine shears
into the evening church) and see
that motes are always falling –
each particle is gentler than confetti,
hallowing the human, the unready;
its glinting traces bless us unawares.
Grace is manna for an outpost life,
is unconditional and borderless –
there is only the reception of its calling,
all I can do is raise my empty hands.
Sarah Law lives in London, UK, and is a tutor for the Open University. With work in America, The Windhover, Saint Katherine Review, and Presence among other journals, her next collection, Thérèse: Poems, is forthcoming from Paraclete Press. She edits Amethyst Review, an online journal for new writing engaging with the sacred.
Photo Credit: “Sun through the ancient church window” by Oleg Sidorenko.