Carol Ann Duffy: Once In Royal David's City


It was in that city. You could see
that David had been there, right royal
except for drizzle on the paving.
Evening like dull pain. Stranger. Manger.
Straw for the mother to deliver
a message from heaven. The poor,
the mean, and the moody. She was Mary,
and the kid arriving at half-seven.

Christ. Jesus. Messiah. His new skin
crinkling in starlight. The local oxen
paddled their tongues by the crib,
dunking their thick heads in shadow.
It was holy all right. You could taste
the dew in his ducts, hear his gurgle
like a broken tap. His maiden mother
was as gentle as Carnation. Or Lux.

Birth was a redemption, a revelation
of good. Ace. Perfect. Brill. Bright.
Love. Faith. The whisper of a child
is like the rustle of feed. You look on
and this is no playpen, no stable.
Weak and helpless. No, he was going
up in the world. Angel. A bright spark
born in a stall. God's gift. No kidding.

From Send-Up