When her flesh felt the touch of language,
of the fingers of the Holy Ghost,
a spasm shot right through her body
and the angel left her utterly alone,

She started to stroke herself gently,
she was little, fragile and inside
she carried the diamond-hard stuff
that was to harrow and sever her.

‘Oh, let me be moved in a different way,
approaching cross, lament and wounds;
so the little mouth can taste sweetness right now,
my wine of love, oh, my dark juice of pain.

She clasped herself so very tight,
with a strength born of madness and blame;
but her two hands were a wonderful sight,
almost like disembodied flame.

From Vita Brevis (Antwerp: C. de Vries-Brouwers, 1955)
By Maurice Gilliams
Translated by Paul Vincent

First published in The Low Countries, 2002