Other Poems

Boundary to benedictus

A meditation on Zechariah

Zechariah—
hillbilly priest of the
Abijarian house of Aaron,
himself the brother and mouthpiece
for “slow-tongued” Moses—
What lesion confounds your speech?

With Elizabeth—
cousin of Mary, spiritual heir of
Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah—
barren and bereft, seedless and sorrowful,
pledged to you, a priest of impotent prayer.
A union with no yield but malignant shame.
What boundary of belief constricts your credulity?

Afflicted with aphasia by Gabriel’s reproach
’mid the cloud of incense.
The Holy of Holies,
designed to regulate the presence of
(the unspoken name of) YHWH, now
overwhelmed with dumbfounding Presence.

From your seed (and Elizabeth’s
fallow soil) shall spring
       John—whose conception prompts
Judean astonishment: “What then will this child be?”

Speechless Zechariah,
befuddled cleric,
schooled in the theory of divine history
but unacquainted with its Advent.
For us, too, encountering the One
who promises the impossible
is a confusing, confounding prospect.
New life issues with a scream,
but is forged in the ordeal
of muted mouth.

Yet after a sojourn in the
wilderness of that bewilderment
even the silence gives way
to benedictus, to blessing.
The promise of perplexity
(for those up to the risk)
is praise and wombs leaping in joy.

Only by this unraveling
is the darkness dispelled,
is life re-raveled, is the boundary to
benedictus transgressed and the
tongue loosened for laudation.

      John—Naziritic preamble
to Mary’s manifesto, whose very
name transcends ancestral boundary—
will reside in his own wilderness
until the time of harvest vocation:
              to turn
the hearts of parents to their children
              to give
light to those who sit in the shadow of death
              to guide
our feet to the way of peace.

©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org. Inspired by Luke 1:5–24, 57–80.  Advent 1997.