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Lay for the Day
23rd December


In the cosmic calendar devised by the astronomer Carl Sagan, in which the entire history of the universe is represented as a single year, with the Big Bang at midnight on 1st January, life on earth begins about 25th September, and humankind appears at about half past ten on the night of 31st December. The twenty-third of December corresponds to the Carboniferous Period, when trees first appeared and the vast forests grew whose residues provide us with coal, oil and gas.
The poem is third in a set of seven that conclude the book of Praises. The rest appear elsewhere, in a run beginning on 23rd October – said by the 17th-century Archbishop Ussher to have been the day, in 4004BC, when God started Creation.


99. Of Days

[After his kind]

In the jostling diversity and difference
of divided things and forces, God worked
on through the night. The waters he had spent
a whole day taming streamed and roared above
and below. Massive, agitated, vast,
the abyss would have been as astonished
as the angels, had it not been self-
absorbed, to find him in the third morning’s
wild light working a tiny universe
into the great one, the rough crust of earth
sporting tendrils, foaming out in fronds whose
delicacy, regressing as they grew,
increased the world’s infinite scope. That was
Tuesday, the trees’ day, day of greenery.

 

John Gibbens
from Collected Poems

 

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar