From a painting by Luc Olivier Merson, 1879
When the dream began it was vague,
the colors ran together like
cheap dye and some winged someone spoke,
hissed at him: “You should run. Take your
darling elf, hide him in a sack,
get the hell out of Dodge before
it’s too late.” He asked, Is this a
joke? Another trick from God who
thinks Virgin births are fine as long
as he isn’t down here dealing
with their consequences, their shame?
The voice was unrelenting.
“You’d better go and go quickly.
Your enemies know where you are
and they’re on the way.” Sad, faith-bound,
he got up, roused them all from the
warm place they’d found and, grumbling, fled.
It was dry bread and mother’s milk
for a million miles. It was wind
and anger and bitter complaint,
a child’s wails, a mule and a moon.
When the voices stopped him, he was
no happier. “Here,” they told him,
“here will be fine.” But it’s ugly
he said and fell, again, to sleep.
“Yes, ugly,” said the spirit voice.
“Sleep in it and get used to it.
You own the joke. The punch line’s yours.”
In silence as large as never,
Egypt’s totem, sandblasted, dry,
waited in the dark, for the sun
child—only him—and no one else.
Martina Reisz Newberry’s most recent book is LEARNING BY ROTE (Deerbrook Editions, 2012). She is the author of several books of poetry and a memoir. Martina lives in Hollywood, California with her photographer husband Brian and their best four-legged pal, Charlie T. Cat.