It’s the second half of December and we are heading quickly towards the shortest day of the year. This year, though, the solstice isn’t until Tuesday 22nd, so talking about it today, Sunday, is a little premature – hence the post title, which gives me the excuse to post a picture of a lion:
A quick look around online tells me that the word solstice is derived from the Latin, and combines the word sol, sun, and the word sistere, to stand or stop: it’s the moment when the sun seems to pause – the point when the year turns.
The strength of the sun in the poem below makes me think it more likely it was the summer solstice I had in mind, but it’s still the most relevant piece I can find.
I’m surprised that I haven’t posted it on the blog before, but I expect that’s because I was afraid the limitations of the screen and the blog format will mess up the line breaks and rather ruin the effect. If you’d like to see it as I intended it to appear on the page, you can download a PDF here: Gaudete.
A half-mast sun, gorgeous, gorged and bloated, floats
above tessellar pennants, tasselled trappings and trimmings.
Now, penance is done and forgiveness given for sins once red,
sins are shed, the penitents shriven and forgiven. Since sins are confessed
and wrongs redressed, now they’re dressed in their best bib and tucker,
dresses ruched and rucked and tucked and neatly pleated, pinked and prinked
and braided; they gather and parade in decorated bonnets, twirl tournesol parasols,
turn from the sun, from the sun’s glare, turn from the sun’s stare.
Turn, turn my soul, turn from sin, turn to the Son for solace.
Yesterday, they wrestled with trestles; today, the tables are piled high,
piled with pies and pasties, with pastries, all things tasty, a cornucopia
of quiches and cheeses, dishes of glad salad, snacks and savouries.
But who, who is this? come to the feast, come to the festivities,
come to feast with friends and family at the festivities? Is it he? Her hand shakes
as she shakes hands; he takes her hand and the virginal welcomes the prodigal
returned home to his own town, to his home town, to his own home,
no more to roam. Render to Rome what is Roman; give to God His due.
The fatted calf is sacrificed, but will this, will this suffice? Thy Will is sacred.
The fatted calf is sacrificed, cooked and carved and shared, and the scapegoat escapes
to the desert, deserving our gratitude – deserving, but spurned – unswerving,
he serves Thy Purpose. Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Meanwhile, he whirls her away from the wayward world, and she’s a girl again,
an ungainly girl, but growing in knowledge and gaining in gaiety and grace.
Round they go, round and round, and the sound rebounds, twines and winds
and unbinds her; she finds herself unbound, free from the chains that bound her.
And the chains fall from her hands.
But there’s blood, red blood, there’s blood-red blood incarnadine under his nails
from the nails his hands have driven, unforgiving, through the everliving hands,
through the flesh and the fibre of the Godhead incarnate; the misbegotten has murdered
the Only Begotten, the Son, forgotten, forsaken. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?
For a moment, the blood-orange sun hangs
from an ash bough, a thought caught, trapped in the branches,
and the branches dance and the sticks and the stones shout aloud;
then at last the sun sinks and the world is left sunless, sinless,
free from sin in the Son.
Of course, poetry isn’t about seeing words on the page, so if you really want to know what I was intending when I wrote it, you’ll need to read it aloud. Personally, I think it’s a poem that needs to be savoured.
And now, because this has been a long post with a lot of text, here’s another lion for those who’ve made it all the way to the end: