A Terrible Nativity

We have grown used to beauty without horror.
— Andrew Hudgins, from “Piss Christ”, April 19, 2000

I’ll take an angel presiding
on a column of ribs and spine.
If we can love astrologers
heading off for the horizon
with only a bright star for a map,
then why not one dazzled astronaut
still awestruck from earthrise
over the moon, from his rebirth
through fire, air, and splashdown?
Let the soldier fresh from killing come,
as long as he carries a rucksack
of remorse, and is willing to trade
helmet and halberd for forgiveness.
I want to be the brother of Mary
in her robe of stars and mourning,
wide-eyed in prayer and fear.
She has only guessed the half of it.
We are strange in our dirt and clay,
often ugly to the core, though
sometimes our kind can turn kind
over something as helpless as a baby
just born, who like us will wear
the stink and smudge of the world
and will die terribly, looking in vain
for something or someone to bless.

• A response to the reactionary attacks on the Vatican’s current Nativity Scene

Matthew Murrey's poems have appeared in many journals such as Prairie Schooner, Poetry East, and Under a Warm Green Linden. I received an NEA Fellowship in Poetry a number of years ago, and my debut poetry collection, Bulletproof, selected by Marilyn Nelson, was published in February 2019 by Jacar Press. I am a high school librarian in Urbana, Illinois where I live with my partner. We have two adult sons. Read other articles by Matthew, or visit Matthew's website.