Mary awakens from her sleep and she thinks about the sacrifices she has made to bring the child into the world. But then she sees Joseph cradling and caring for Jesus as if he were his own son and her love for Joseph deepens because she knows what he has been through and the fate from which he has saved her.
The poem ends with Mary’s growing love for Joseph and Jesus, something that she was previously unable to feel because of her pride and her preoccupation with the things she had lost. The birth of Jesus was not the only miracle in Mary’s life.
When she awakened,
she saw him by the mouth of the cave
cradling her son, and in that moment,
she knew she would cherish the rest
of her life with him. For he held the child
to his chest so tenderly, as if he were
his own son, warming him by the small
flame’s heat, shielding him with his body
from the cold that eased itself
between the joints of her back
and fingers—cold that killed the last green
flowers near her home, robbing her
of her father’s beard against her cheeks,
her mother’s hands on her shoulders.
She bowed her head and a tear
fell from her cheeks, splattered into a star
in the dust between her sandals
and the fire. He had saved her.
Saved her from the taunts
of the young men sauntering home
after temple, saved her from the snickers
of the young women winnowing wheat
in the fields, saved her from the laughter
of the old women who now shunned her—
she who had driven so many
suitors away and held on to her pride
as a sacrifice to her god who had now forsaken
her to the judgment of old, bitter men,
their calloused hands smoothing the rough
skin of stones they were ready to hurl
at her head, the way their curses rained
on her, before Joseph covered her
and one night took her away from the village.
Joseph looked down at the strips of white
cloth that bound the child’s feet and arms,
came over to her side, brushed away
her tears, and held her trembling hands.
She believed him when he said
he knew their son was a miracle.
And for once, despite the snow
that buried the town and all her cares
under layers of ice, she believed
that everything, even love, was possible,
for it now filled her heart.
From Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas.
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