It is cold. The bull by the door
has flecks of ice on his nose.
Sheep wool is stiff bristles.
Everywhere the breath of animals
fogs and steams, their visible spirits.
I am always cold and barely notice.
Frozen hoof ruts make standing hard.
Beside the small dung fire the woman
dries the child, cleans him with wool
and ice water warmed by her breath.
One more child, I think again, as I have
from the first rumors, the whispered portents.
I am here, doubt alive and well
as this tiny one, rubbed to a glow
by the coarse wool and staring blindly around.
I think of my own four, hungry
often as not, dirty and loved
when I have time. One more child.
As if the one god, Yahweh—I know
enough to know if there is a god at all,
he will be one—would inhabit
with spirit this cold flesh. Messiah
a man I understand. King. Warrior.
Our own child. Dung and hoof-dents.
The song I hear might be
my mother’s old melody
that sang me to sleep despite the hunger.
How well I remember her, dead at 28.
Now this woman sings, something like it.
How lovely it is, how it fills.
I will go soon. Why did I come
or linger? What hope throws stars
across the sky, ropes muscle into walking,
stalks every move tonight? I must be mad
or dreaming. I will leave. I will go home.
As soon as her song is done.
From Ordinary Time: Poems for the Liturgical Year. Used with permission from Wipf and Stock Publishers, www.wipfandstock.com.
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