Hope Is So Slender a Gift
Hope is so slender a gift—
slender as a seed,
slender as that young woman’s breath—
its little intake before her whispered, “Yes.”
Slender as the prism the angel casts,
trembling in a silent breeze, slender
as his prophecy, deftly spoken but
half-grasped—and then he leaves.
Slender as a star’s shaft of light-years
guiding to Jerusalem; there, adrift,
unwelcome, the young couple: only earth
and sky were ready for the birth.
Hope, slender as the stillness of a nest’s
tender shells, as a life that is eclipsed
by the Son, slender as the silence
of her prayer that knits tangled strands
into meaning, pondered and loved,
and finally transcended to the sphere
where the slender word reveals eternal
truth, and she submits even to his cruelest
death: crucified. She stands, witness
to the Innocent One’s death, she stands,
so slender, in the world’s wide rift—
passion of mother and of son.
She stands and stands, no angel-prism
now, this hope, hope slender as sorrow’s
sword that, as the elderly Simeon foretold,
would cut her soul.
Then, first day of the Church—unknown,
as yet— the waiting, blessed mother
among eleven slender grains, and more,
all to become—what? Grist?
Hope is so slender a gift.
Johanna Caton, O.S.B., is a Benedictine nun from Minster Abbey in Kent, England. Born in Virginia, she lived in the United States until adulthood, when her monastic vocation took her to England. She writes poetry as a means of understanding the work of God in her life, whose purposes and presence can be elusive until viewed through the more accommodating lens of art and poetry. Her poetry has appeared or will appear in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Time of Singing Christian Poetry Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, The Christian Century, Amethyst Review and other venues. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee.