Untimely

by Phoebe Anthus

I had wished to sleep forever, through
the destitute December.
Bleak bed of boughs beneath
and bleaker sky above, breath cloud
frozen like a benediction over
souls’ dark night.

But in this moment,
snatched between infinities,
the son I birthed came, forcing glory back,
came troublesomely waking warmth and thawing pain.

So Christ came, an impossible dream
which we, in the darkness of midwinter,
must celebrate. Christ came
shattering our perfect frozen skies.
Glory to God!

There’s no predicting how or when it happens
because birth, like most things holy,
is a disorganized nuisance, while it is going on.

Christ came, and I wish
only to sleep
through this December dream.
Like a bear hibernating, not
celebrating the impossible nuisance
of birth in the darkness of midwinter,
in the darkness of my doubt.

Why not in spring, when
frozen self, like honeysuckle greening,
forgets its blighted loss;
when all the world is new and strong,
young leaves crying “live” wrestle
light down through the ground
to feed deep root its strength.

Spring holds the new-old tenderly,
would wrap its stored-up scents of green
grown thick by waiting,
’round the child-king, as it does
every year; the barren beech
would treasure the barefoot child,
as the robin, the daffodil, and
all that bursts unstoppable or wild,
up through the ground, up towards
the promised sun.

But now, in this December,
I want no birth,
only to lay me down,
bleak bed of boughs beneath
and bleaker sky above, breath
frozen like a benediction over
souls dark night.

I want no birth, but it already came,
to force the glory back through frozen vein,
troublesomely waking, thawing pain.

Then by God’s birth my own birth is
made holy; blessed and gathered up.
By his kingly loss, his straw-strewn gain, each tomb remembered,
irritating increase known,
gathered close to carry tenderly,
up the impossible ladder of goodness
as thin as the air, unstable as the wind,
where the angels singing,
“Glory to God!” catch me unaware,
as this small son’s beating fists,
insisting I awake,
from this bleak December dream.

Wake me then and birth me back
impossibly holy, blessed and gathered
to the father of my father,
angels singing, “Glory to God,”
in gracious inconvenience.


Phoebe Anthus is a stubborn artist with her head not so far into the clouds that she cannot notice the solid, sensible things as well.


Photography by Kenneth Godoy

One thought on “Phoebe Anthus: Untimely”

  1. This one echoes in my soul. The structure is lovely; the truths poignant and piercing. How true that much which grows holiness within is first experienced as an unwelcome nuisance!

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