The ox knoweth his owner and
the ass his master’s crib. 
Isaiah 1:3

The erstwhile holy father in a book
on the infancy of Jesus, Christ the Lord,
debunked the angels we have heard on high
and banished beasts from the Nativity.
those manger scenes and creches notwithstanding,
those figurines of lowly animals,
their steamy exhalations warming the babe,
more myth, so says the pope, than scriptural.
My jack ass, Charles, has begun to mope
around the haggard, inconsolable
as that giant Canaanite and erstwhile saint
who shouldered Christ across the river once,
downsized, alas, to “Mister” Christopher,
by another pope, who some few years ago
consigned him to the hinterlands of faith.
As for Charles, my gelded, piebald ass,
who’s borne such burdens as were his to bear,
on Sundays carting Christians off to Mass
much as a forbearer bore Mary hence,
fat, gravid with God’s Lamb to Bethlehem,
the way lit by a guiding star’s bright light
now dimmed some by the magisterium.
The time I’ve spent with asses was well spent
and taught me reticence, humility,
and reverence for their meditative lives;
whereas my time with hierarchs has wrought
little but wariness at the ways of men
who claim to have such eminence and grace
and proud dominion over lesser beings
for whom the heart keeps time: par rum pum pum pum.

Published in the December 5, 2014 issue: View Contents

Thomas Lynch’s most recent books are The Sin-Eater—A Breviary and The Good Funeral, co-authored with Thomas G. Long. He has taught in the Department of Mortuary Science at Wayne State University, the Graduate Writing Program at the University of Michigan, and at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

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