In celebration and observation of Advent, which is upon us, I am writing one poem per week that recounts the birth of Christ from an unusual perspective. I am a bit behind–the first week of Advent is nearly over! I am finding it difficult to have intelligent thoughts these days. Characterized by diapers and midnight feedings, my profound thoughts come slowly and sporadically! But, I managed to eek this one out with one day to spare.
A note to the reader: Bethlehem, in Hebrew, is Bet Lehem, [bet ˈleχem], “House of Bread”
Common as Bread: Bethlehem Recounts the Birth of Christ
My streets are narrow, thin
like a beggar’s limbs and dirty as the beasts
children lead. Donkey and sheep, dust
and dung. My women
wear tunics sewn of the plainest
weave, chaff of wheat clinging
like a sad embroidery to the hem.
All day long their daughters
sweep and sigh–a dirt floor’s never
clean. And my men, hands full
of callouses, not coins. Once, I was
great. City of David, fortified
and strong. Now I am a city common
as bread. Least among the least.
Imagine, then, how I rejoiced
the night I heard His cry.
Common as bread, a baby’s cry.
But not His. His was a song. The stars
recognized it as the lullaby
they’d been made to. I knew it
as the psalms my king sang, his harp
like a prophet’s tongue. In fodder
gathered from my fields lay He
whose new-found breath
gave life to Adam’s lungs.
Born here, a baby, common as bread
broken to feed the hunger of every man.
Perhaps it was only the evening’s moonlight
that made my streets, still narrow
and trod by beasts, glow as if paved
by finest gold. Perhaps, though,
it was not.