Tuesday is Christmas Eve for Eastern Orthodox, Coptic and several other Christian traditions (also, Jan. 6=Epiphany for Roman Catholics and others) . So in honor of these celebrations– and because God poked me to say “Post this”– I present the new poem below.
BTW, for a fantastic OLD poem about Epiphany, the Wise Men and Christmas, check out T.S. Eliot’s Journey of the Magi, from 1927.
Now, Kala Christougena! …and on to my poem:
Bethlehem Lost by Mark Nielsen
In the original Hebrew,
Beth lehem means “house of bread”.
And the Bread of Life did come from there.
(The Arabs call it “house of meat”–
ironic, for He was all three: bread, meat, life…
also known as Father, Son, Spirit.)
Then the British came to Palestine,
made a royal mess of the city,
and named –of all things –
a London psychiatric hospital after it.
The poor Cockneys who feared madness
called it Bet-lem.
The British nobles–
who could afford to keep their madness at home
behind closed doors,
to spare themselves embarrassment –
stole something else from the poor
and invented a new word for this madness:
In America, we have a nearly dead steeltown
that went back to the original name:
It didn’t work.
The Bethlehem plants still closed.
And the houses of miners and houses of steelworkers
didn’t have much bread left in them.
Not much life, either.
And the original town where my Lord was born
has had nothing but senseless bloodshed
since Herod first slaughtered the innocents.
Where are those wise men now that we need them?
-by Mark Nielsen, January 5, 2009