the in-laws you acquaint yourself with first
upon arrival in your husband’s home
are in-laws hen and cow.
as other travelers recline upstairs
on the best of this household’s cushions, you make do
with straw that in-law goat keeps trying to
snatch out from under you.
you hardly mind: these relatives are warm.
their smell obscures your smell — the sweat and dirt
of travel. they don’t pester you with questions
you have no energy to answer now.
your husband’s sister — when she finds the time
to sit a moment — takes your hand, and beams:
“we almost thought he’d never find a wife —
that maybe carpentry filled all his dreams” —
she winks, and Joseph huffs, but smiles too.
“and now, well, look at you!”
one motion to your belly, then she’s off
to cater to the other guests aloft.
not long from now, you will take center stage —
a gush of water like a parted sea
crashing back down will call all hands to you.
a little niece-in-law will be sent out
into the night to call all women to
your side… for now, though, you’re content
to fall asleep unnoticed by the rest
of this household splitting at the seams
with family you’ve yet to meet.
the rustling of the hens drifts through your dreams
while in your belly, God kicks his new feet.
About this Poem:
I wrote this piece for episode 52 of my Blessed Are the Binary Breakers podcast: “Revisiting Nativity — Was Jesus born in a barn or house, and why does it matter?” which you can find wherever you get podcasts; or on this website, along with an ep transcript.
In the episode, I discuss how the Greek of Luke 2:7 might not say Jesus was born in a stable after all — that rather than any inns being full, the text tells us Mary gave birth in the main room of a peasant home (likely belonging to Joseph’s family), “because there was no room in the guest room.”
- “Nativity Beads: A poem and an essay exploring alternative readings of the Luke 2 story“
- “Revisiting Nativity: Jesus Bursts in“
- “Questioning Jesus’s Birth: What the Greek really says!” — deep dive into the Greek & scholarly articles, with tips on how to do this kind of research yourself