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Bo Niles

Second Prize 2008 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $300

About this Christian Poet:
Bo Niles is a former magazine editor and the author of a number of books on architecture and interior design. She is also the author of A Window on Provence, a travel memoir, which features her own line drawings. She and her husband are both now retired and live in New York City. Both are active members of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest. A former member of the church choir, she has been singing ecclesiastical music with the Canterbury Choral Society for over 30 years.

About this Poem:
My husband and I returned to the church when our younger son decided he wanted to be baptised and confirmed at age 13. Throughout our marriage, we had both felt strongly that our sons should find their own pathways to God, but we had neglected to show them our way, as we had stopped going to church for some time, in part because our jobs were so consuming and involved travel. We were both profoundly moved by our son's message to us: that the piece of the jigsaw puzzle that was missing in his life was faith. Ever since then, being a part of a church community and reading and writing about my faith has been very important to me. In terms of this particular poem, I do feel that angels and messengers enter our lives from time to time, sometimes when we least expect it. Thus this poem about waiting--and being open to expectation.

Cloud Cover

Somewhere in the nowhere of cloud outside this fog-pearled window
The sun turns aside from our manifold gaze
And a sort of creeping ennui seeps into the city
Enshrouding my fellow souls as they negotiate their private tightropes
Between work and home.

Time stopped this past night, saving time—and teetered—so
That this particular time of day has gone preternaturally dim,
Prompting lights to blink on here and there
While I sit in my chair by this window within the haloed flush of lamplight
Nursing a cup of dark and dusky tea.

If I were anywhere but in this chair by this window in this mist-mantled room—
If I were on the other side of cloud cover, say,
Where winged throngs enjoy eternal beatitude
And time as we know it is distinguishable only by proximity to our earthly horizon,
Would I feel any differently about where I sit,
And would this cup of black and leafless tea be enough to comfort me?

I sip my tea and listen to the flap and drone outside this window and I wonder:
Will the messenger arrive on foot,
Or will he spin around the corner, pedaling furiously, a bag a-bulge behind,
Or wil l he suddenly flap forth, winged, colossal, and haloed in sun,
From a pillar of fire or dusky cloud?

In what guise will the longed-for one arrive?
What color his eyes? What shade his skin?
Will he arrive barefoot or sandal-shod,
Or will he stride along in boots slimed with mud,
With laces frayed and knotted at the tip
And soles as thick as slabs of bread?
Will he be cloaked, or robed, or garb'd in gold,
Or suited in a bespoke tweed,
Or swaddled merely 'round with linen cloth as white as virgin snow?
Will he be a babe again, or youthful, or ancient as a sage?
Will he be bearded and darkly maned,
Or will he bare a pate as smooth and polished as an upturned cup?

And, when he comes, my Gabriel,
Will he fold his six-fold wings around me,
Touch me on the hair, the head, the hand?
And will he kiss my lips
And breathe his clean and holy breath into my duskiest desire,
Murmuring a sweet annunciation,
Or will he announce himself in a rush of wind
And a blaze of lighting and a thunder-clap—
With a rebuke and recounting:
The deeds;
The words;
And, most of all, the very things and thoughts
Bidden and unbidden
Which pile up like crumbs beside my crumpled napkin.

Will he be a he, or a she,
Or something else entirely?

Copyright ©2008 by Bo Niles