Magnificat

By Eleanor Wilner b. 1937 Eleanor Wilner
When he had suckled there, he began   
to grow: first, he was an infant in her arms,   
but soon, drinking and drinking at the sweet   
milk she could not keep from filling her,   
from pouring into his ravenous mouth,   
and filling again, miraculous pitcher, mercy   
feeding its own extinction . . . soon he was   
huge, towering above her, the landscape,   
his shadow stealing the color from the fields,      
even the flowers going gray. And they came   
like ants, one behind the next, to worship   
him—huge as he was, and hungry; it was   
his hunger they admired most of all.   
So they brought him slaughtered beasts:   
goats, oxen, bulls, and finally, their own   
kin whose hunger was a kind of shame      
to them, a shrinkage; even as his was      
beautiful to them, magnified, magnificent.      
   
The day came when they had nothing left   
to offer him, having denuded themselves   
of all in order to enlarge him, in whose   
shadow they dreamed of light: and that      
is when the thought began to move, small   
at first, a whisper, then a buzz, and finally,   
it broke out into words, so loud they thought   
it must be prophecy: they would kill him,      
and all they had lost in his name would return,   
renewed and fresh with the dew of morning.   
Hope fed their rage, sharpened their weapons.   
   
And who is she, hooded figure, mourner now   
at the fate of what she fed? And the slow rain,      
which never ends, who is the father of that?      
And who are we who speak, as if the world   
were our diorama—its little figures moved   
by hidden gears, precious in miniature, tin soldiers,   
spears the size of pins, perfect replicas, history   
under glass, dusty, old fashioned, a curiosity   
that no one any longer wants to see,   
excited as they are by the new giant, who feeds   
on air, grows daily on radio waves, in cyberspace,      
who sows darkness like a desert storm,   
who blows like a wind through the Boardrooms,
who touches the hills, and they smoke.

Eleanor Wilner, “Magnificat” from Poetry (August 2004). Copyright © 2004 by Eleanor Wilner. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Poetry (August 2004).

RELATED CONTENT

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Eleanor Wilner b. 1937

Subjects Christianity, Social Commentaries, Religion, Faith & Doubt

Poetic Terms Allusion, Blank Verse, Metaphor