The Cosmos Ticked Silently
They came with fragments hacked from arid inland
ravines, golden brown or flecked like a pink moon
before a storm. They crammed it before the journey, in a casket.
Naturally, other gifts - gold, myrrh, some balming oils
for the mother, the spent sack of her belly - were brought
to the narrow refuge where the new family huddled
beside asses, some ailing sheep, one wild dog
drawn to the smell of birth blood. Steam from bestial
droppings rose in the night. But the al-luban from Oman was
so fragrant. Even before it burned, the young pair,
exhausted after the journey, stirred, felt purposeful again,
the future grisling and gurning as the mother marvelled
at the child’s nudging lips, his tiny fists that opened and closed
like desert anemonae. Overhead, a bright, steering cosmos
ticked silently, the enveloping dark pricked with light years
of stars, indifferent to it all.
Mary O’Donnell’s most recent collection is The Ark Builders, (Ark Publications UK, 2009). A selection of her poems appeared in Hungarian in 2011. She is also a novelist and teaches creative writing at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.