A créche of bones

by Mikey Sivak

nypl-digitalcollections-510d47e3-1e16-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99-001-w

Sirani, Elisabetta. L’enfant Jésus. 1860 – 1889. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Art & Architecture Collection, New York Public Library, New York.

 


For Nate R.

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.

–Luke 2:7

 

I.

In December’s wood the bone child bides,
perpetual, never-waking, half-buried
in the litter of some seasons before.

Vapory eventide, some night snow,
leaf and coffeecup, styrofoam slumber
and grocery cart, old-twisted, mysteriously
abandoned this deep in the little cut, that
separates the project from I-95.

Wreath of rat snake, which each winter
freezes, only in spring to reawaken its reptile heart
like a yearly raising of Lazarus, quiesces coiled
beneath sternum and costae like a crèche of bones.

Little dead boy, tiny non-Christ,
gone most forgotten, who by now
might be just some kid, but instead
was discarded to the dirt in the woods
behind the brown ghetto where
no one goes, save the little lost boys.

None ever found him there.

Small skull like theirs washed by time,
hollowed of anything that made him whoever
he was and might eventually become.

 

II.

Strange Nativity in an urban junk wild.
Madonna a field mouse.
Joseph a crow.
Melichior, Casper, and Balthazer,
whitetail, opossum, and skunk.

And down the berm where the street runoff
stream trickles most frozen, crayfish winter
in old soup cans like shepherds of the fields
and in the rainbow puddles sewer minnows
are the sheep.

Vapor of the dirt pile the breath of the god-child.
Some stupid streetlamp the nativity star.

Last season’s bittersweet, a galaxy of berries
red erupting from school-bus yellow husks
like skulls from hairless babes’ scalps or souls
from dead children, the sons of god or kings of men,
crowning from the million vulvas of their child
mothers, raped as if by god.

In the tenement windows the Christmas lights pulse.
Old boy in the gutter prays for quiet death.
The men round the trash fire, Communion of Saints.

Feral cat and wild pit-bull, lean and searching, prowl
the places for anything to eat like the Beggars of Nazareth.
Their own bones visible through stretched fatless skin
like the ribs of a child swaddled in a mâché of old leaves.

And in the dirt gully, “round yon child,”
Gloria in excelsis Deo, little lamb of God,
the frost, the rat, the dusk lark and her vespers:
O Come O Come Emmanuel. Joyful and Triumphant.

 

III.

Holy Mother at the pharmacy checkout:
welfare formula and pampers
her frankincense and myrrh,

womb vacant as the quiet crib waiting
like men for god or a manger for another
failed child Christ, never to be neither
god nor man, hungry son of New Dirty
Bethlehem in America’s East.

Gone baby, fatherless dead child, lost covenant,
broken promise, sin without redemption,
death without hell, empty bosom, useless milk.

And no one asks:

What parent took the child from his bassinet,
tossed him down to the floor of the woods,

and why did Our Father dump his children
into the slum of this world?

 

Mikey Sivak is a writer and visual artist from New Haven, Connecticut. http://mykls.tumblr.com/

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