“Bethlehem’s Hours’ Mourn”
Bethlehem’s hours’ mourn, furtive glances northward toward Nazareth
Veil yet another year’s expectations as soon enough her promised Son survives.
This Sacred Lady knows that somewhere in between the two the king contrives
Within himself a fevered wall. He practices predilection; he does not guess.
He knows exactly what he wants, and from the East come
Annually the three who make queries round the campfires
‘Neath the skies from well beyond the Jordan. Casually they inquire,
“What are these Golan walls, and what the genesis of guns
And orchards plaited all along the shepherds’ run? Whose images are these,
And what is it they disguise, what the New Year’s Vulgate for the people?”
Yes, they come, these three, adrift once again, stalled between the steeples,
Innocent, yet barred, viscosity forbidding. Their passage isn’t what it used to be.
They ask in earnest and find the answers always cause for surprise.
The king’s awake tonight; he’ll not fool the wise this time.
“Yes,” they say, “you’ll find Herod’s tomb beneath it all, and Caesar’s not far
Behind buried in debris never imagined nor have the Magi ever seen
As much though their restive restless centuries’ search. Truth has always been
Adjusted, gleaned by gratuities, facts of hubris born of Ptolemy’s predilections,
Dwarfed and all but swallowed in the complaisant craw of economies; schemes,
Modern pontiffs asserting prescient views in arrears and despite their slumbers
Solvent in the past and future well beyond prognosis and the numbers
Used to define their holiness and humour all humanity. Their smiles seem
To reach for meaning in every fireplace; they sift the ashes of the kiln
And pyre and dote on what they think they’ve found as if confirmed
Not least by carbon’s ancient age and not at all by what is earned.
Admire the Chinese, while they rise, ballast for the Pantheon of what fits the bill
And never mind the incense and sacrifice, the penury, the monuments to reigns
As numberless in academic catalogues as tea leaves left in cups and blood stains
on a million crosses planted in a Holy Land of boiling clouds and endless pain.