Mary and Joseph with earth brown skin,
straight black hair, look holy and patient.
Three wise men with complexions
of white and brown and black
kneel on the cold stable floor, bear
gifts. Guinea pigs huddle in attention.

I ponder the indigenous Jesus, and
the holy family who swaddle him
against the cracks in the stable’s wood.
Ponder how dusty, cold, and tired, tired
Mary and Joseph are after so many miles.

I ponder the poor who still walk miles
to fulfill a decree or escape one.
The people who feel their ruler’s hand
pressing down on their shoulders,
bending their backs to his will.

Ponder the wise men who recognize
a king in the smells of a stable.
Who save this baby king by evading
Herod. Ponder the Holy Innocents.
Slaughtered on command because
absolute power brings absolute fear.

Ponder matriarchs like my grand-
mother sleeping on a stove’s dead embers
in a Polish hut housing nine. Crossing
an ocean, finding New York, bowing
her head before Madonna and Child. Still
illiterate, forming English sentences
never fluent, always understood.

In the soft folds of my leather jacket,
the stiffness of my Levi jeans, I stand.

Michelle Tokarzcyk has published two poetry books: The House I’m Running From and Bronx Migrations, as well as poems in numerous journals and anthologies. Poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. After many years as an English professor, Michelle is now retired and writes in New York City.