Ecce Ancilla Domine

                                            I sing of a maiden who is makeless. 
                                                       Anonymous 15th Century Ballad 
 
 
                 -1-
 
In the wake of the bells
There is more than time:
There is time and silence.
 
They are always there, if mercurial;
out there, in here, enveloping everything.
 
You always have them, yet you lament their absence.
You always need more, for you do not know how to spend them.  
 
There is a woman in a dark doorway.  
 
Into the lamp light, from under the awnings,
Short skirt and heels.
 
“You will taste me and die.
Then I will show you a place where there is no time.”
 
                   -2-
 
In the snow he had lost color; he needed color.
In the flowers he had wanted the whiteness of snow.
 
He knew something he had never been taught, something he wanted to know.
 
His brother had been taught, and thought being taught made it fungible.
His brother didn’t know and didn’t want to.
 
He saw his brother’s books on the table.
They whispered to him; they told him secrets.
 
Then they told him to forget them, and he did.
 
                   -3-
 
He was touched by another woman’s hand.
A voice said, “Have you been touched by a woman’s hand?”
 
The voice had the answer, became a face;
The face made a length of white, to the whitest hands.
 
He was shown how you make light without fire,
was shown the light that existed before fire –
the light the fire borrowed from.
 
He was shown love and joy without measure
from before there was lust and sensual pleasure –
the love the pleasure borrowed from.
 
                   -4-
 
He learned there are no chance encounters.
 
There is a call, the woman comes,
There is a call before the call;
The call is an echo.
 
The robe of the woman, her flesh,
the smile of the woman, her face,
the long chain dangling out of her hands –
 
“You will find hope in the length of my rope,” the beautiful woman says.
 
                   -5-
 
An end of the rope on His back,
its tongue in a vicious coil.  
 
“Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani?”
 
The maker of the rope whipped by the rope,
whipped where he had thrown the rope –
the bottom of a well.
 
The woman drew Him in buckets,
buckets that spilled, splashing the dust,
running red in cobblestone, leaving clear lines on her face.
 
The foe is the friend, the friend is the foe.
In the end is the beginning, the beginning leads back to the end.
 
                   -6- 
 
The rope is a ladder.
 
A thirsty nomad dreamed,
his head on a pillow of stone. 
 
His girl is the daughter of the well,
her son is its water. 
 
The water is cool
from the ravage of winter. 
 
It returns with the dew of April,
silent and still.  
 
                   -7-
 
Like a flowering vine in the snow, a warm voice in a cold wind,
the scarred end of a rope hangs from her thin fingers.
 
She is the mother of light, and death is her sister. 
 
They come in the twilight,
Where the swallows precede them like angels
Shot from the sun.   
 
Thorns are scattered like sprinkles.  
 
Each night he dies counting off time,
drifts off with her beaded chain,
An umbilical chord in his hand.
 
In the end is the beginning, the beginning leads back to the end.
 
                   – 8 –
 
These women, flesh and blood, among them move
some who are scions, like branches that moved the fire
when men could not make it, and had to carry it
 
From camp to camp. They are exquisite with death,
and the scent of a time without scent, a world
without matter, which only makes them richer,
 
Giving sorrow to youth, and memory, 
with pain, pain without which the Idyll
of the land without shadow would no longer linger,
 
Pain without which the phantom would flee,
Pain without which the beauty is shaken,
The thirst slated, desire annihilated.
 
The maiden who is makeless makes, her irony
The power that breeds all slant and majesty,
Ancient ballads and dreams that will not die.  

 
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