Verse – In the Stable

The shame that old man Joseph felt
in taking Mary to the barn
was mainly that, of course, it smelt:
it reeked with sheep shit, donkey dung,
and cattle plops. The widower
knew wives who whelped were never clean
themselves until the midwives pour
the well water over their loins
and legs, wash front and back. His first
young wife had died in giving birth
to their third child. He shook his fist
at heaven as she lay in filth
and breathed no more. Sweet Mary mild,
step-mother, virgin, pushed and smiled…

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Dec. 24, 2014