The air tense with anticipation –
Mothers, hankies screwed in nervous hands,
Fathers, tall and stiff and out of place,
Await the magic of the incarnation.

Coughs, scraping chairs, and Mary in deep blue
Helped by her husband up the dim-lit aisle.
Oh, surely this sweet virgin’s not the child
Who covered teacher’s favourite seat with glue?

These shepherds filled with innocent delight,
Their lambs and crooks borne solemn to the crib –
Their scars are not from lions fierce or wolves,
But from the playground in an awful fight.

This king with noble crown-ed head,
His venerable beard of grey,
Bearing his gift; is he the boy
Who put a hedgehog in his father’s bed?

The church is empty now, gone are the voices
Of those little souls so sweet and good.
The church is empty, save,
Behold! upon the chancel steps
A little puddle where the smallest angel stood.

Heather Shute

December 2019-January 2020

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