Glad, that night, of the metalled clubs when jackals
cried on the hills and the dog snarled, they waited,
shaggy under keffiyehs, the heavy coats
rucked high for the wind, nibbling at olives,
one of them tossing his pebbles, one of them flirting
at reed pipes, all of them stinking of sheep,
in the eyes of the law none of them worth a damn.
It was the messenger that broke the spell
banality had spun for them, his pinions
gleaming under the drizzle, eyes bright
with news and laughter, talking out of the glory
come over them and himself, spieling away
about rescue, and making a king of a shepherd, and signs.
Even the dog for once recovered his temper.
And then it was raining angels like cats and dogs,
every last one of them choiring of praise and of peace,
the shepherds gawping, a son et lumière,
put on for nothing, the night aspill with music.
Heading downhill to the swaddled child in the feed-box,
giddy with melody, flarelight still in their heads,
man and boy they loped as if to a dance.
—Peter Steele, SJ
Peter Steele is a professor emeritus of the University of Melbourne.
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