The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Unmuted Word by Sarah Lasoye

Worship
Today at the Cathedral View More
7:30am Morning Prayer
8:00am Eucharist
8:30am Doors open for sightseeing
12:30pm Eucharist
4:00pm Last entry for sightseeing
5:00pm Choral Evensong

The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Unmuted Word by Sarah Lasoye

The Fourth Sunday in Advent - 23 December

Unmuted Word
by Sarah Lasoye
featuring the drawings of Stephanie K Kane


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
thins in the middle?

Not from wear – as is with most stories,
but from a kind of fog that forms as it nears its peak,

at its threshold,
at the moment he becomes,

at the moment the medium changes
and the other words turn quiet, listening

for the sound of this one.

.

He didn’t cry out,
and there were seconds the air hung

taut, pressed against the walls,
as they waited for him to pronounce himself.

And when he did, they said the sound of a world without him
was unimaginable. Which was sweet.

I knew that to them he was an unmuted word.
For those who had no language to talk of a God never made flesh,

he was their unprobeable answer.
But I asked.

Before he was anyone else’s, was he mine?
How possible was the uncoupling of an already coupled being
and its mother?

I see now.
It’s like He threw a stone to me,

and I thought he was asking me to catch it
in my two hands, pull it into my chest,

and keep it there.
No.

I was only for him to skim across my surface.
I was for Him to smooth and shine his night sun.

I was not for the sun to fall beneath or behind,
- no. He was not made to be mine like that.

He was to be curled toes, then bleeding, then black, then night,
then sun.

.

Only I know that the smallest word, in searching,
can take a hand, and turn your jaw to face it,

so that the wind spins sideways
and the word mouths “mother”.

But so little dexterity is required to bend the back of the story altogether,
so that an easy silence sits in its middle.

So focal it folds neatly in on itself,
holding a muted word,

A word still. A word all the same.

Holding the word I laboured for.
Holding my labouring of the word.

.

The story thins in the middle
Because a word cannot be its mouthing.

Not the movement of breath before or after,
not its appendages – I know this now.

So I, in the same way I would a wound that sits inside my cheek,
must feel around the edges of him

and move my mouth to imagine his sound.


Reflection 

“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.