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Philip Quirke

His first visitors sweat from toil,

carry the oily damp of sheep and goats.

Woodpile of trimmed cedar oozing resin

reminds Joseph of his Nazareth workshop.

Sweet scent of lamb stew drifts from the inn.

Ox and donkey lie heavy on hay

their foggy breath musky and warm.

Lamp-smoke from tallow and oil disperses

high in the rafters among cooing pigeons.

Kings bear ointments and incense;

their perfumed robes waft the rich

scent of spices in eastern bazaars.

Jesus swaddled; child at the breast

content. Mary dozes. Mellow

aura of nursing mother and baby,

God incarnate in the fragrant crib.


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