Away in a manger ten days before Christmas …

It happens this way …

One of my goals as a young poet was to rewrite the Bible from a woman’s point of view. Over the years, I’ve slowly accumulated poems about — among others — Adam and Eve, Noah, Martha and Mary, Lot’s daughter, and Job’s wife. Since ’tis the season, I thought I’d share one of my favorites. It’s  based on that moment in Bethlehem when Mary and Joseph are told the Inn is sold out.

Listen to the innkeeper’s wife when she comes to grips with who it was her husband turned away. What marketing opportunities were lost that day!

Innkeeper’s wife irate over loss

I could spit! I shouted in his face.

Turning paying guests away!

He brushed that couple off without

so much as, Maybe we could find … .


When will he learn? The Census earns

five years of room and board,

but lugging wood and curing hay,

learning isn’t on his mind.


Of course I’d carve a plan. I’d hearth

an extra rug to keep her bundle warm.

He and that soft-eyed man would share

a bed. And when it came her time,


we’d march those smelly shepherds far

beyond the barn and hush those wings

and aggravating songs. They could drive

a dreamer from his restless sleep.


And, the publicity we’d glean!

A destination site, at least.

Not every day do morning stars

and cameled Kings ruckus through


our town. We’d be well-mapped,

well-known for hospitality,

not the butt of half-lame jokes.

We lost the chance. I’m furious!


Know what’s worse? That dotty neighbor

with the rotting manger molding hay

lets strangers muck across his barn,

dropping coins to say they’ve been.


Now he roams his days across the hills,

singing sounds like tidingspeace,

and human hearts. Who talks like that?

I’d like to know. Who talks like that?

— from Carolyn Martin, The Way a Woman Knows (Beaverton, OR: The Poetry Box, 2015)