Immanuel, Tião deSesperado

A poem from an unknown poet that recreated the power of Christmas for me.

O God, you absent one

Surveying the vast waste

Our human dreaming gave way to,

Perched above so as to see

The full breadth of devastation

And to hear the feeble prayers

Of those who despite their desperation

Still remembered how to call upon you,

Still believed in your lordly ransoming

Of the enslaved, raped, trodden

And spat upon, bereft of children,

Parents, lovers, not thinking anymore

Of that fantasy human dignity

But hoping for some tender mercy

Extended from your condescending

Beneficence; O Heavenly One,

Lord, Master, King on High,

Deigning to look down on these

Disasters and to contemplate your

Divine rescue; again voices rise

To you to sing your praise,

Alleluias celebrating your

Fleshly birth and promising

Something called Immanuel,

You with us, voices pretending

At least to believe that old tale

Of a baby and a stable and shepherds

And angel choirs belting out

For the whole world to know

A crazy secret of a king, messiah,

Come from your height to our

Lowly depth and you knowing and caring

For us and the wasteland this space

Has become. I hear the songs and

The words recited over and over again,

Telling a too-familiar tale,

To this weary, bored, captive Israel,

News advertising a commodity

Called Great Joy, branded, patented,

Packaged, guaranteed to satisfy

Every bloodied consumer seeking

Comfort and the solace that heals

In a season dedicated to a

Purported peace on earth.

O God, you far-away mysterious Ruler

Contemplating Incarnation,

My own song lifts up today,

Wafting not in the direction of

Your Heavenly sanctuary, not toward

Your Royal throne, but to and for

These holy, lost, lonely lives

And the souls who lack the curiosity

That would suggest the question,

What the hell do you mean

By peace, comfort, and joy,

What sort of foolishness is that,

When anyone with eyes, ears, a nose,

And a heart not entirely insensitized

Can see hear smell feel the stench of

This hope-destroying existence and

The stupor of our daily living?

Who ask not why the foolish story

Is repeated year after year without

Seeming to make much difference

In the conduct of those who

Praise the Prince of Peace—

Who, having lost hope themselves,

Educated well by the hard knocks of

A long history of repeated defeat,

Don’t imagine a heavenly rescue

At all, not having indulged in the

Habit of the coddled well-off , the

Ones who expect a deus ex machina

And so appeal to you in your throne—

No, these who attend instead to

The moment’s immediate need,

The search for what is absolutely

Necessary on a cold night of hunger

And pain, with contractions

Commencing, and no pity to be found

On earth or in heaven, for travelers

Undocumented and far, far from

Home and warmth and a safe place

For a peasant child to be born.

A lonely song it may be in this

Season of carols and fanfares

Dedicated to this royal birth

And a story thoroughly domesticated

By those who bought up all

The international publishing

Rights; but I will try to intone

The melody bravely, singing to

Ones who have no expectation

Of praise, no cause for celebration

As they struggle with a painful

And unsanitary delivery in a

Hovel, and wonder how in the world

They will feed another one

In this cruel world that makes

No room for wanderers on a

Bitter cold night.


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