The tombstones arrayed in haphazard fashion
around the church, each headstone black with fungus,
as was the Madonna before whom the girl knelt in a passion
of prayer for her child not yet born among us.
A damp dew lay upon the grass that stained her knees
and the sky was overcast not unlike a vault in a crypt
and it refused to rain, or to shine, the distant trees
whispered in the hushed tones of judgment and gossip.
The church had existed for over two hundred years
and had been the place where many people came
to pray for hopes, and joys, and wrath, sorrows, and the fears
that are the natural heirlooms in Life’s two-faced game.
The stranger sat on the stone bench, not too far from her,
listening to her prayers, and the prayers through the centuries
which were like a bountiful crop whose yield from Summer
had not been harvested to serve in Winter’s ease.
The stranger wore a large trench coat, and a broad-rimmed hat,
and there seemed something odd about his figure and his airs
as he hunched over, watching the young mother while he sat:
so intent, so engaged in the girl’s desperate prayers.
Before she left, the young mother crossed herself again
and said three Hail Mary’s, her rosary clutched to her breast,
hoping the doctors were all wrong, that the child within
would bud and blossom, despite each ominous test.
The stranger, having heard all of her pleas, wove
the countless prayers of that church into her womb,
granting the child that untapped cornucopia trove
of lives and hopes and fears to help her bloom.
The sky remained overcast and neutral, the miracle seeded
without radiance, or thunder, or rain or birdsong,
for while she would be born, just as her mother pleaded,
she would be the heiress of neither good nor evil, nor right or wrong.
Her life would have joys and sorrows, love and loss,
and would be neither blessed nor cursed, but the same as all
who had come before her, offering their prayers to the cross
and hoping for reprieve, or being thankful, or answering the Call.
The stranger stood, then, and stretched his limbs of seven,
the trench coat cast aside and the angel wings spreading to fly—
though he could no longer fly to the luminous spheres of Heaven,
having been cast out eons ago as he gave to God a reply
so lukewarm as to his alliance that God raged and fumed
and smote him from Empyrean like a shooting star in fall
that struck the earth, a cast-out seed that therein bloomed,
granting to that desolate rock a lush, vibrant garden sprawl.
Neutral in the War of Heaven, and Neutral now upon the earth,
he could only grant the gift of Life, serving neither Heaven nor Hell,
being now the Earthwalker, the Waker, Janus, the Angel of Birth—
and whether he served good or evil, no one— not even God—could tell.