Gabriel’s Lament

Mercy, Lord.

I cannot learn to weep again.

I have forgotten how.

I am no match for a gentle hand

and a wondering eye.

I was unable to mop her tears up

with gold embroidered sleeves,

heavy weight of God’s light.

When I saw you by the gate, mud-daub and dust dark

with the wet of the first rain, you asked if I needed water.

I could have op’d my lips to the sky.

When your back was turned to the water-jar, goat-skin flagon dripping,

I unfurled my wings, and you did not recognize the sound,

so unused are you to birds. Your sister tends the chickens.

And so you were more struck by the proffered blossoms than sacred greetings.

I brought you lilies, and you did not know what they were.

They do not grow near Galilee.

You trimmed the stems with adroit penknife,

put them in water by the window,

arranged the small smooth stones you love best

on the beaten sill, asked only then.

Behold! Fear not, daughter of man,

for you are blessed among all in that

you will lose every day the joy you nursed so well.

Our Lord cannot help you in your sorrow

save reveal the truth:

the small sacrifice of your heart

can save a nation if you let it.

You are favored by the truth that you are yourself alone,

and that cannot be forgotten so easy.

A fisherman’s daughter whose chief joy

is tossing glinting fish scales in the air to make her father laugh

is a small thing, true. But you are beloved for being so.

And so with hard lip and lidded eye,

I told her all would be well.

You are given the gift of learning again.

Memory of goats too stubborn, years without rain,

too little grain and the ache in the heart when

Levi in the market does not know your name—

you will hold sorrow, keep it close,

and gather anew each day

something new to smile for.

Grief will paint you colors others do not know how to see.

I am no messenger of joy, only witness to what was and will be—

your husband will love you despite all things,

the multitude will murmur your name

when they need a mother,

and your heart will be cleft in two

to a God and to a son you knew

you could never comprehend.

Before I went, she stroked my wings once,

could not bear to feel the weight of buoyancy a second time.

If she had asked for joy, I would have given it.

But her tongue was full of stones,

a pass in the mountains littered with too many avalanches

in times old men do not remember. She would not ask

that her days would compound joy upon joy

until there would be no room left to fill.

Has any man came by that

with pure heart and honest hands?

Perhaps she had both.

These humans have a way of knowing

when they are marked for something greater,

though they weep.

I could not bear to tell a falsehood,

and choked back moonbeams when I cried,

You will not laugh without effort again.

She smiled at that.

© 2015 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.

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