Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The "O Antiphons"

Many Christians sing these antiphons from December 17- 24:

O Wisdom
O Adonai
O Root of Jesse
O Key of David
O Radiant Dawn
O Ruler of All Nations
O Emmanuel

and these images show up in all kinds of artwork:

I especially like this one:  Christ, the Geometer

But a number of years ago, I wrote my own set. I've posted them other years, and here they are again:

“O” Antiphons


O Magritte sky
over the dead college,
over the government installation
between snowstorms at sunset,
classroom buildings black shoulders
trees creaking butlers in high relief,
bring me an illusion of reprieve.


O key of Rilke
where you wait for me
in the pages of the love poems,
O key of C, solid, predictable, yet sliding into
the key of see, often blurry, often double,
barely a quay of sea for me,
tenuous, untethered ,
loose on the wide ocean
of your mercy,


O seal of our yearning
glued on the long blue envelope
of sky,
Ciel of our yearning,
grey, mushy today in winter rain,
keep the ink of my prayer
from fade or blood.


O long night
full cold moon,
draw me like the sea,
draw me like Magritte paints you
peering through the wrought iron tree.
O Duende,
when I sing with you, no one can qualm,
no one can calm,
no one can come dancing to the dark sound
without feeling your pull on their tides.

O gathering light,
receiving light,
ours, ocelli,
theirs, ommatidia,
Who opens the insects
to navigate the world,
finally, late this year, in
mid-November, when
strangely green leaves still stand on the pin oak,
on the mild still day,
at last , a ladybug
sails her way to my window screen,
A fly taxis in for a landing
on the lip of my cup.
Their semper cells –
crystalline cones under the eye lens –
always vigilant,
gathering light.
O facets,
oh cell’s eye,
oh my tidings awake,
graciously give me that
facile receiver!

O Route of Jesse
through the desert
of dessert,
foretold by sage
mint and rue, too.
Streets of severance,
tendrils twining on my ankles,
bring me down, holy holly,
bind me, blind me, clutching ivy,
map my angry trip
through the muck of humility.


O manual, laboring handbook,
gladden the work of our hands.
We wait for peace,
but terror comes instead.
What factory fashioned the
slashing shrapnel?

manual light, new elevation,
elicit handmade candles,
bread, bowls,
Carpenter, potter, baker,
emit manual glory.

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