Mary is pregnant,
her fist in the small of her back.
Somehow she manages
to heave herself onto the donkey
who lumbers under the weight.
We must remember it’s midwinter and the journey
seems endless. It feels as if the world may end like this,
the long nights, clear, and filled with stars.
What a blessing is straw,
the scent of summer when one lies back
in the short reprieve between cramps.
Even today there’s not much talk
of Mary’s body, consumed
as it was by tides of pain,
the incredible female power
of her labouring, the bearing down,
that Christ’s first crown
was her taut membrane.
It is agony that pushed
his small face into the world
blue and white and bloody,
neck deep in his mother’s body,
the eyes of bewilderment blinking light.
Soon his shoulders,
and slippery body, all fingers and toes,
his first breath.
And then the sacred act
the cutting of connection.
The afterbirth, that vehicle of carriage,
just so much meat.
So here we are in a barn
in the quietness after the storm
held in the eternity of a newborn’s eyes.
He latches onto her breast.
He latches onto his life.
He latches onto his death.