The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Unmuted Word by Sarah Lasoye
|The Fourth Sunday in Advent - 23 December|
Sarah Lasoye is a British-Nigerian poet and writer based in London. She is a former Barbican Young Poet (2015/16), and is currently a member of Octavia poetry collective.
Has anyone noticed how the most told of told stories
Not from wear – as is with most stories,
at its threshold,
at the moment the medium changes
for the sound of this one.
He didn’t cry out,
taut, pressed against the walls,
And when he did, they said the sound of a world without him
I knew that to them he was an unmuted word.
he was their unprobeable answer.
Before he was anyone else’s, was he mine?
I see now.
and I thought he was asking me to catch it
and keep it there.
I was only for him to skim across my surface.
I was not for the sun to fall beneath or behind,
He was to be curled toes, then bleeding, then black, then night,
Only I know that the smallest word, in searching,
so that the wind spins sideways
But so little dexterity is required to bend the back of the story altogether,
So focal it folds neatly in on itself,
A word still. A word all the same.
Holding the word I laboured for.
The story thins in the middle
Not the movement of breath before or after,
So I, in the same way I would a wound that sits inside my cheek,
and move my mouth to imagine his sound.
“Has anyone noticed how the most told of told stories thins in the middle?”
We have met an angel, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, a young couple journeying to Bethlehem. Snippets of their stories have unfolded in front of us, slowly and in detail. But here, at this moment when earth and heaven collide, there is a scarcity of words - a child is born. Only this. Celebration and foreboding follow in vibrant colour but the birth is less than ordinary, it is swept over, an afterthought almost.
In this poem we are lulled into an intimacy of mother and child, a coupling and uncoupling. A mother’s voice as she wonders at the life she has just brought into being, as she struggles with the distance that is already forming between her and the child who was once a part of her, and who soon must forge his own way. “I was only for him to skim across my surface…” But we are also guided into a wider context, a bigger narrative. “…I was for him to smooth and shine his night’s sun, I was not for the sun to fall beneath or behind – he was not made to be mine like that. He was to be curled toes, then bleeding, then black, then night, then sun.” We are made to pause at that moment when time slows down, “at the moment He becomes, at the moment the medium changes and the other words turn quiet, listening for sound of this one.” Word. Logos. The word made flesh. An infant. The divine.
We marvel at the ordinary extraordinariness of it all. God in human form, in flesh appearing. Vulnerable, reliant, dependent. A cosmic story being played out on a small stage in a tucked away corner of the world. And for a moment, just like Mary, we hold onto the story, the word, the baby, tightly, asking her question: “Before he was anyone else’s, was he mine?” Before we too must let go of this baby, this moment, this story, so dear to us, and allow it to unfold in terrible and wonderful ways.
But first we pause, we breathe, we allow time to stop, and we hope with all the furious hope that only new life can bring. And we speak his name. Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us.