Mistress Dyer and the Wilderness

Boston, Summer 1636

Sometimes the wind comes from the bay
and it carries me to the Thames. But rarely.
We are bare and new in this western light,
shining and shone on.
We are raw planks to build with.
We are lichen clinging to the rocks.

Every day I wonder: here I am.
We survived the crossing, a blind womb.
One babe left tucked in the burying ground
of St. Martin-in-the-Fields; another lies
kicking in the cradle by my feet.
Here I shall live as mistress of a house.
Here I must climb out of the flesh
into perfection.

My foot snags in clover on the common;
vines grow up wall and fence-posts in June heat.
Each week I rip them down, the sound
like ripping out an ill-done seam
when I was taught to sew.
I think of my wedding gown in the chest:
twining flowers thickening the silk, the bees
shimmering in gold and silver thread.
No cause to wear such pictures here.

Last eve I stepped outside the house
and spied a huge moth resting on the wall
greener than a cabbage, spots
like strange eyes staring into mine.
I knew it for a sign, but what?
I felt a voice inside me stirring, murmuring
Be still and wait. Thy life is coming, thou art
being called, beyond imagining.

A howling wilderness, we say.
I hear noises in the dark sometimes;
the forest is not very far,
vast mainland past the gateway of the Neck.
How strange to think of living neighbor to
what would rejoice to kill you.

The wilderness of this world:
I weigh that phrase sometimes. In every place
we are looking for a different home.

But I think grace too is something wild:
God’s savage freedom, springing as he chooses.
The longing that claws inside our hearts
to be nothing, to be all Christ,
emerged into our holiness,
wings unfurled.

If we speak, it is Christ that speaks,
John Everard preached in London.
Hearing Christ in a woman’s voice
rising in a hushed and crowded room,
I feel a roaring like a sea-storm
drawing me out to stand on the wet rocks
as waves crash towards me, and someone calls turn back!
but I stand and stretch my arms, face heavenward,
crying nay, nay, I am ready for it, I am
not afraid, I am ready now.

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