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Poems for Advent 12

The Shepherd Boy

St. Luke 2: 8-20


'All of this happened

a long time ago . . .'

was how I started

when the doctor found me here

still minding sheep

with a cuckoo in the thicket

staring out across afternoon fields

patched in places

by scabs of limestone chalk

as they have always been.

Said he was trying to write A LIFE;

had been for years;

good sources were scarce

and he had left the birth

till last.


'A lot happens in over thirty years

most at issue for you-

all your principals here are dead,

my father last

three years ago.'


'Season of rainy winter months

and cold

I watered the flock

before nightfall

counted them inside the sheepcote

spent an hour laying more

thorn branches along the walls

to discourage wolves.

My father took the night watch:

there were three others

all with other flocks.'


'I was not on my father's field

that night

and have never pieced the story



four things however

emerge without a doubt

the rest admit to fancy

and imagination.'


'Firstly some stranger visited them:

Brought them dates and nuts

olives, apples,

asked in return

for one unblemished lamb.

Years and years later

others that were not there

embellished the story

adding angels.'



all of them afterwards

were upset:

shepherds who had seen

within their span

a full share of fear and dread-

grown men


beyond my comprehension.'


'Thirdly they left their flocks


a thing unparalleled in all our ways

to see a child born

in a hill cave

above the town.'



when he finally came home

the man who looked the same

was not the father

I had known.'

Jeff Guess


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