December 19, 2006

"Christmas Night": Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas

Jesus, Mary and JosephChristmas Night” tells the story of Jesus’ birth from the viewpoint of the newlywed couple, Joseph and Mary, and describes how their lives and loves changed once the child had been born.

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.

Christmas Night

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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