Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Poem for Christmas Eve

There's a dark line, by December, running
down from Mary's diaphragm and across her
navel, a dark line
on one of the darkest
days of the year
by which time she's
been carrying him
for nine long months

Her feet ache
and her breasts ache
and her hands can barely grip anymore
any minute the reins will slip through her thick fingers
and maybe she'll fall down off the donkey
and cry for a good long while
on the side of this dusty
distant, cramped
Judean road.

Joseph says this whole town is full to bursting,
and she just says, "I know."
He's trying to ask her opinion,
wants her to tell him what to do, she
supposes, or maybe just to give him her
permission to do
whatever must be done.

But Mary's brain has been flooded,
washed clean out,
by the work of tending her inside:
a secret place,
where her son can rest his head
immersed in her water,
nourished by her blood.

If she can carry him
another mile
another hour
That great and terrible moment will come
when he bursts forth into this world

to teach us all
how to be born.


  1. We often forget how real Mary was. I've given birth to five children and can relate to the discomforts you describe, and also the miracle of birth. Thanks for sharing the poem, I love it. I can never be grateful enough to the Savior, and His Father and mother.

    1. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that even spirit is material, and so as Latter-day Saints we should expect to find the sacred in the material realities of life. Birth is a very physical process-and all the more divine, perhaps, for its intense physicality.

  2. It's 3 PM in Utah. Wrapping paper on my living room floor. My oldest daughter just called to talk about Christmas breakfast at my house in the morning. I'm wrapping things for her children, my grandchildren. Thinking about being a mom, about my family and about our lives. And I notice a friend posted the link to this poem on my facebook wall.

    I don't know quite how to thank you for this. I'm so moved. Agape is the word that comes to mind. It might not be a big enough word, but it's the best I can do on this Christmas Eve. God bless you and yours. Thank you for writing this and sharing it.

    1. That you for sharing that moment of your Christmas Eve day. Poetry is not, I think, so much in the text itself. Poetry is that 3 pm moment when the text mixes with your life experience and becomes beautiful through what you add to it.

  3. This is beautiful and just what I needed to read today. Thank you.

  4. James I like your poem. I haven't seen you for a while and I was glad to encounter this poem on Christmas morning. I hope you and yours are well.

    1. Kim,

      It's good to run into you again in this strange little electronic corner of my world. Me and mine are indeed mostly well-ish, and happy to be together on earth.

      I still have fond memories of you, your class, my brief meeting with your husband and kids, and your advice and support at early New Play Project shows. Having a family of my own now, I have a deepened appreciation for the time you took to go beyond what was required of you to help me develop as a writer.




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