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, most recently in Okay Donkey, One, and JAMA. He received an NEA Poetry Fellowship a number of years ago, and his debut poetry collection, Bulletproof, was published in 2019 by Jacar Press. Matthew is a high school librarian in Urbana, Illinois where he lives with his partner. They have two adult sons. Read other articles by Matthew, or visit Matthew's website.