a country legend

"Christmas Poem"    

Says a country legend told every year:
     Go to the barn on Christmas Eve and see
what the creatures do as that long night tips over.
    Down on their knees they will go, the fire
of an old memory whistling through their minds!
   I went.  Wrapped to my eyes against the cold
    I creaked back the barn door and peered in.
From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,
                   and the beasts listened -
              yet they lay in their stalls like stone.
                     Oh the heretics!
               Not to remember Bethlehem,
               or the star as bright as a sun,
           or the child born on a bed of straw!
         To know only of the dissolving Now!
              Still they drowsed on -
      citizens of the pure, the physical world,
         they loomed in the dark:  powerful
            of body, peaceful of mind,
               innocent of history.
         Brothers!  I whispered.  It is Christmas!
           And you are no heretics, but a miracle,
        immaculate still as when you thundered forth
                  on the morning of creation!
           As for Bethlehem, that blazing star
      still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.
     Caught in its light, listening again to its story,
   I curled against some sleepy breast, who nuzzled
 my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me
            the best it could all night. 
--Mary Oliver, from Twelve Moons


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