Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, ‘Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple’

Rembrandt, 'Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple', c. 1666-69.

How light he lies
in these ancient arms.
The infant’s eyes open
to meet the old man’s
as they close.

I have seen his eyesight fade.
I have wept some days to watch
his long waiting, sonorous mumbling
prayer trailing into sleep. For many
months he has wished to be
dismissed in peace.

Now, holding this child,
he can let go.

Glad for his good release, I mourn
the mother’s pain, the child’s plight,
the loss that comes
for me in this: no longer to see him
on the temple steps, old eyes glittering
with hope, always ready to retell
the ancient tales while doves coo
in the courtyard and chattering housewives
pass in the street and within
the drone of prayer turns story into song.

What darkness comes with this light
burden he bears now, gurgling
his brief contentment. Glory of Israel,
Revelation to the Gentiles, this little gift
of God will cost us all we know. I see
the sword in his mother’s heart,
and in his own – and mine, too,
as the old man, his log watch ended,
speaks his fateful benediction.

– Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, ‘Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple’, in Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrandt’s Religious Paintings (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003), 37–8.