The Swallow said,
He comes like me,
Longed for; unexpectedly.
The superficial eye
Will pass him by,
Said the Wren.
The best singer ever heard.
No one will take much notice,
Said the Blackbird.
The Owl said,
He is who, who is he
Who enters the heart as soft
As my soundless wings, as me.
Wise Men are busy being computer literate.
There should be a law against confusing
Religion with mathematics.
There was a baby. Born where?
And when? The sources mention
Massacres, prophecies, stars;
They tell a good story, but they don’t agree.
So we celebrate at the wrong midnight.
Does it matter? Only (dull) science expects
An accurate audit. The economy of heaven
Looks for fiestas and fireworks every day,
Be realistic, says heaven:
Expect a miracle.
This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.
And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
No room in the inn, of course,
And not that much in the stable,
What with the shepherds, Magi, Mary,
Joseph, the heavenly host —
Not to mention the baby
Using our manger as a cot.
You couldn’t have squeezed another cherub in
For love nor money.
Still, in spite of the overcrowding,
I did my best to make them feel wanted.
I could see the baby and I
Would be going places together.
My gift for the child:
No wife, kids, home;
No money sense. Unemployable.
Friends, yes. But the wrong sort –
The workshy, women, wogs,
Petty infringers of the law, persons
With notifiable diseases,
Poll tax collectors, tarts;
The bottom rung.
I think we’ll make it
Public, prolonged, painful.
Right, said the baby. That was roughly
What we had in mind.