The Carpenter

by Dorothy Winslow Wright

I walk in the dark beneath the starry sky 
filled with love for my wife and tiny son. 
They sleep, and I am alone, remembering. 

I stood among the shavings and the curls 
of fragrant olive wood, its glow as warm 
as Mary’s sun-brushed cheek—my bride to be— 
my pregnant bride, her body rounding out. 
She was but a girl, young and innocent, 
beguiled by a passer-by. “An angel,” she said, 
“And I conceived! Oh, Joseph, how blest I am!”
 
The blessedness eluded me. A child. 
Someone else’s baby slept beneath 
my Mary’s heart; “This child belongs to God,” 
she said lovingly, as she rubbed her hand 
across her homespun skirt. Her eyes shone. 
It never crossed her mind that I might doubt.
 
I forced myself to keep my thoughts unsaid. 
How could I expose her to the wrath 
of the villagers? The shunning. The hurt. 
(We are not always kind in Galilee.) 
I vowed to protect her, to call the baby mine. 
I loved Mary. I could love her child.
 
He was born here in Bethlehem 
after such a journey! There were no rooms 
in the crowded city. It’s census-taking time, 
so we camped in a stable, and on a mound of hay 
our boy was born—my little carpenter.

I walk in the dark beneath the starry sky 
filled with love for my wife and tiny son. 
They sleep, and I am alone, dwelling on 
the dream I had one restless night when doubts 
crept in. An angel spoke of Mary and the child. 
 
I was to call the baby Jesus. And I will. 
On a night like this, it’s easy to believe.

Years ago, angels dressed as men 
walked with Lot throughout the sinful towns 
of Sodom and Gomorrah, searching out 
the faithful few. They were God’s messengers. 
Was the angel of my dream a messenger? 
Or was it God? Would an angel speak for Him?
 
How bright the creature was, bright as the star 
that shimmers high above the stable now! 
Its brilliance stings my eyes. Is the angel here? 
I sense its holy presence once again.

What is it about this night that touches me? 
Something strange is happening. I feel 
it all around me. So does the shepherd lad 
who wandered by. He asked to see the child:
“To worship him,” he said. I wonder why? 
And how did he know about our baby’s birth? 
He’s in there now with Mary and the boy, 
his small white lamb, and the drowsy ox and goats.
 
I walk in the dark beneath the starry sky 
filled with love for my wife and tiny son. 
They sleep, and I am alone, pondering 
the meaning of this night.

It goes beyond my ken. I am a simple man.
I know not of these things, but I am a father now 
and I will be a proper one. I aim 
to raise my little Jesus boy to see 
the beauty in polished wood, have pride 
in honest work. He’ll learn his trade and be 
the finest craftsman in all of Nazareth.

Although Dorothy Winslow Wright’s work has been published in such magazines, books, anthologies and literary journals as Delaware Today; Atlantic-Canada Annual Anthology of Christmas Stories; The Book Group Book; A Loving Voice Iⅈ Modern Maturity; Touring Times; Yankee Magazine; The Atlantic Advocate; and ComputerEdge, she is best known for her long career as a poet. With many hundreds of poems in print and scores of awards for their quality, Wright takes pride in recent publication of featured poems in anthologies Kindred (2018) and Entwined (2019), and a second printing of her own memoir in verse, There and Not There. She continues to write and have her work published as she anticipates her 100th birthday in July of 2022.

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