An Anachronistic Nativity
This poem was delivered as a short film, in which Paul narrates the poem to camera in a series of deserted tube stations late at night.
The small hours come and bring with them the sun,
but the darkness is reluctant to give way to anyone.
But night, in itself being an absence of light,
concludes its inherent inferior might,
and concedes that for now, the sun might just be right,
and grudgingly opts to relinquish the fight.
And the sun having won, becomes conscious of time,
so begins to make good on his new chance to shine.
So Joseph wakes up, turns on News 24,
yawns and walks to the mat just inside the front door,
picks up the mail he expected to see,
but decides that his first job is going to be a cup of tea.
Flicks the switch on the kettle, goes to sit on the chair,
that he recently made between trips to Mothercare.
He opens a statement from Lloyds TSB,
casts it aside and reads the one from BT
and just as he ponders why they're serving Nazareth,
the kettle makes clear that it feels that it's had enough
time to boil. So Joseph makes tea.
But his attention is turned to the voice from the TV.
See the strangest thing about a really strange day
is that strange days and normal days begin the same way.
So he turns and considers what this voice has to say,
and how even the most well-woven plans will fray.
Joseph zones out as his brain does the sums,
and although his mind's flailing his face just looks numb.
And Joseph just stands there as minutes stack up,
till the BBC's best fanfare wakes him back up.
Music on the news hits somewhere deep in Joseph's heart
‘cos the news they've just reported has .. blown his world apart.
And whilst the monotone of read news can be something of an opiate,
the epic intermission tunes seems hugely more appropriate.
He walks back to the mail which he left down by the chair
and sees the last unopened letter which he left lying there.
He picks it up although he knows already what it reads,
Opens and reads it and confirms that ... yes indeed ...
He's going to need to go home.
But that's not it. ‘Cos this isn't a journey he'll be making alone.
I think I may have mentioned that he's been going to Mothercare.
And there's only really one reason why a man his age goes there.
See, Joseph has a girlfriend, who's all set to be his wife,
but she currently playing host to a secondary life.
And this half-life is aspiring to be a full life of its own,
for about the same time as Joseph needs to be back home.
Watch the dark clouds bruising
Bellies flushed with water
They swell above your heads
So now we move the sun a few degrees through the sky
just to signify that some hours have gone by.
We rejoin our protagonists just as they've finished packing
and as we step back in, we see brave faces close to cracking,
hid behind facades and charades is the hard realisation
that their will to see this through is lacking.
Pull your coats around you
Feel the wind cut through them
Scraping at your bones
But still the door closes.
And Joseph thinks he knows if those who chose this could be shown his
situation the decision would be reached then to postpone it.
But knows that just for them to see might not inspire empathy
and is actually unlikely to lead to change of policy. And anyway,
he realises his head is in the clouds
and if they're going to get to Bethlehem he needs to hold it down.
Searching their effects for a map he recollects a time when
Mary map-read and what should have taken two days took ten.
He's not falling for the "Leave the map reading to me" gambit again.
Upon successful procurement of a map, they start their quest,
and we'll fast forward this bit and move the sun yet further to the west,
to a time where crepuscular light
soaks the dusty trail they're on, heralding the night.
Their elongated shadows stretch across the panorama
It's time for moratorium.
Joseph puts his arm around Mary;
He holds her, and she holds him.
Their love seems to burn stronger
when everything else looks so grim.
He looks deep into the eyes of the girl who'll be his wife
and says "There's no-one in the world
I’d rather spend the worst day of my life with than you."
She smiles, and rests her weary head on his shoulder,
and Joseph relaxes, content for now to hold her.
Hold her in the falling rain
Hold him like you’ve never done
Let this be a moment
That you won’t forget
That you won’t forget
That you won’t forget
All your life
‘til you die
So once again the sun peeped his head round the world,
just to be present as the story unfurled,
to examine what went down since he did last night,
and to paint this morning's skyline with vivid orange light,
which found the weary couple, sooner than they'd like,
and announced that it was time to resume their hike.
But Joseph knew today would be much like yesterday
so rolled on to his side and asked the sun to go away.
But the sun is persistent so continues his ascent
and ignores Joseph’s ongoing pleas to relent
eventually accepting the inevitable fate,
Joseph takes the bait, sits up straight and berates
the sun for interrupting his rest.
Unjust altercations seem endemic to the stressed.
As rationality resumes it rightful place in
Joseph’s mind, he recognises that they need to make haste
‘cos they're behind.
They get up and they set off much the same as before;
instead of leaving a house though, they're leaving a floor,
and beckoned now by the trail they know they have to go
they let the wind fill their sails but the wind is moving slow.
Do you know what I mean though, where drive is hard to come by?
Destination - current position yields a value much too high?
Well I guess that's how they felt as they set off today,
and the early morning sunlight sees them on their way.
The late afternoon sun however, sees them arrive
filled with elation and glad to be alive.
They go into the first inn they come to in town
and it's true that what goes up must come down,
‘cos they walk away despondently, the last room's just gone.
They thought they'd get a cup of tea, but they've got to carry on,
so they walk on down the road and go to inn number 2,
admittedly a budget affair, but it'll do.
Problem is that this one is jammed full as well
but the bloke behind the counter is happy to tell them
of another one, just down the road,
so off they go again, carrying their load.
As they approach the final inn, the sun departs to see
how Canada’s been getting on and leaves Bethlehem be
And the moon enlisted by the sun shares his light
helping people not to bump into things in the night.
They knock on the door to which they've pinned all their hope
and are greeted by a bloke who wants to throw them a rope
but says he can't. He's got no more rooms,
but wants to help them out on account of Mary’s womb.
He wishes he had something to offer, he says,
and if there's a cancellation in the next couple of days ...
Mary looks at Joseph like he'll know what to do,
and he sort of does: he hugs her, and tells her they'll make it through.
Though he doesn't know that, ‘cos don't forget,
he hadn't read Luke, ‘cos it wasn't written yet.
Mary lets some tears fall now on Joseph’s shoulder,
and Joseph's mind is whirring; he can feel it getting colder.
He despairs and he stares, relied upon, but lost
and he's scared, stood there, too aware of the cost.
Statued close together
A precious, tender moment
A solemn, sombre time
And just as they turn their backs and walk away,
the door opens behind them, this man has something else to say
his face, no longer downcast says "You can't stay right here,
but if you're open to suggestion, I’ve got an idea ..."
Joseph will take anything he says and if he's able
to offer something to them lay it down on the table.
The man says his livestock would be happy to share
the stable round the back if they'd like to sleep there.
Joseph wastes no time and ecstatically accepts;
Mary smiles and wipes away evidence that she wept.
The smell in the stable can't assuage their relief
they get brought a cup of tea, to revisit our motif.
The decor's hardly Hilton, but it's everything they need,
if they steer clear of the wet bit where the cow just weed.
And if their son should come, for want of a cot
they can use the manger, ‘cos that's all that they've got.
Joseph says "I need to know the cow's name if I stay..."
The inkeeper smiled. "His name is Gyp I say"
"Stupid name for a cow" said Joe and sat in something sticky
"Stupid name for a dog, but it didn't bother Vicki"
So once again the two of them embark upon sleep,
both convinced that nothing's going to keep
them awake tonight.
But nothing's ever black and white.
‘cos in the moonlight
Mary senses something's not right.
Wakes Joseph up by squeezing him tight
tells him what's happening, its the fright of his life.
It's the night when his wife to be
gives the right to the life to be
and though this scene is a sight to see
this son is the light they need.
So the small hours come and bring with them the son,
And the darkness will leave, ‘cos the light will have won.
by Paul Leach