Blue Christmas

This originally appeared in The Inquirer, Issue 8001

The stories rarely mention anymore
how badly Mary missed her Dad,
how as she trudged through Bethlehem she yearned
to hear his voice, which she knew –
it made her chuckle just
to think of it! – would be raised in fury
at the faceless innkeepers, making plain
that this was no way to treat a pregnant woman,
let alone
his daughter
and child.

Nor do they mention the ache in Joseph’s heart
whenever the moon shone on the barren meadows
a certain way,
or an old, old melody was whistled by shepherds,
and he was instantly brought back to his sister,
who was very much alive
when the world was still young.

Perhaps the stories missed these things
because no-one wanted to talk about it much,
least of all the couple trying to find room
for a new life in a busy world.

They found a manger,
and the quiet song of their grief
was drowned out by chickens,
and the snoring of a horse,
and the footsteps of those passing by
their nothing alley.
This cacophony of life, its unregarding entrance
to their sadness,
felt both grotesque
and utterly, utterly right to them:
for is not death surrounded by life
every bit as much
as the opposite?

And Mary had her baby.
Sweet child, wailing,
utterly helpless,
death-ignorant, filled with gasps and sobs,
awake through the night.
As Mary and Joseph took turns holding him,
the power of kings was suspended,
and there was no being there
that did not rest in beauty.

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