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Lay for the Day
6th January

The Feast of Epiphany, when the three wise men arrived where the star had been leading them. In the calendar of the Russian Orthodox church, however, today is Christmas Eve.



Though praise be of
the dialects of love,
it’s less than all
the language at her call.
In deep complaint’s
expensive blue she paints
on either hand
the void in which we stand;

draws its sombre
ground in ochre and umber,
angry dashed-on
crimson and daubed damson-
blackness of grief
swallowing in relief
the chromium-
yellow solace of sun.

She composes,
from our very losses
and lacks, the shades
of the mountain’s blunt blades
and spiny growth,
where the harsh and uncouth
passions convert
to an honest desert.

There the elect
sit despondent, lie racked
by hard labour:
in a rock-cleft stable
to bring to light
from light that bawling, slight
and helpless thing,
the child who’s born a king.

Whom we who sing
from no angelic rung,
nor can adorn
with a wrought, flawless crown,
must sing as best
we can. Or just witness
to love’s descent,
eternity present.


John Gibbens, from Church of Thorns


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar


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