The Inexhaustible Stream

The Inexhaustible Stream

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To Isabel Cecily Dowling

The Inexhaustible Stream

I often heard you say
You would like to have been a nun
That all you wanted was peace and harmony in the home
And that one day I would understand ...
Now that the tides of so many seasons
Have washed away the obstacles
Deposited as duty between us,
Now that the fog of unfamiliarity has cleared
Letting me gaze
Undistracted by clutter
At the unsullied line of your life,
These sounds sustain me
How many darkened mornings
I found you filling bottles
Testing them on your wrist
Before letting me feed
The latest life you had borne.
Those moments are mine
Rare and sacred times
I had you to myself.
In tabernacles of silence they are enshrined
and there – with the light of yet more seasons –
I understand why you said
You would like to have been a nun
That all you wanted was peace and harmony in the home
And that one day I would understand.
Nothing was made easy for you.
Nothing.
Service was expected and
From girlhood to womanhood
You were groomed to give.
Yet, as each new life appeared
From the inexhaustible stream of your womb,
They didn’t put your photo in the paper
marvelling at the miracle of motherhood
they didn’t dress you up in robes
(or anything much come to that)
performing pageants in your honour
dubbing you brave or great
acknowledging your undeniable ability
to create.
No I witnessed nothing of the sort
They simply said you were a saint.
Yet your sacrifices were not the stuff of hymns
Psalms did not intone your
Daily sustaining of so many lives
And the only medals pinned on you
Were of virgin martyrs
Or men – who had sinner so successfully –
Their very repentance reaped centuries of applause.
Recognition is reserved – it seems- for sinners
The doers of evil are endlessly exalted
While pomp is poured on the already pumped up
Who sit so sated with long purloined power
They have somehow forgotten (despite the best schooling)
The source of their strength
The place where their pronouncements rose.
Indeed so weighty do their words become
They easily forget the ones who gave them suck
Who picked them up when they dropped
Delivering them to schools, universities, railway stations
Ironing their robes
Laundering their liberty
And generally carrying them from conception to courtroom
Expecting nothing al all
Certainly not a reward.
Seeing themselves so spot lit
They believe they are self sufficient
Their deeds are recorded
Their words regurgitated
And their bones systematically and scrupulously numbered.
No - so - yours
From the unpolluted file of my memory
I know no band played
Each time you cut umpteen lunches
Asking did we want marmite, vegemite
Peanut butter or jam
No lines were written in the record
Each time you served rounds of toast
Filled pots with potatoes or cabbage.
Posterity had no wish to know
How you kept the tins filled
Put the order in, washed up and vacuumed,
and always – absolutely always -
Prepared a pudding
Something even the judges may have understood
Had you let it slip.
I am yet to unearth the epic
Telling how you drove to daily mass
Upholding their faith
Or tramped into town – hold-all in hand –
To fill stockings to the brim
For which Father Christmas got the praise.
Yet without all this unsung service
Judges would collapse on benches
Priest dissolve in pulpits
Indeed the pompous of every sort
Would look with terror on their nakedness
And the lilies of the fields
They have so long urged us to emulate
May laugh,
But I doubt it
Creation knows no malice.
Instead, unsustained by your sainthood
Canons will forget to fire
Armies simply tire
While cathedrals, towers and monuments will crumble
No longer propped up by
audiences congregations communities
you assemble.
When history is buried in its own rampaging waste
When lives are no longer squandered
Creating order from chaos
I will never hear you say you would like to have been a nun
That all you wanted was peace and harmony in the home
Because you were right
Somehow you knew
One day I would understand.


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