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.

Mary O'Donnell

Mary O'Donnell, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a novelist, poet and short-story writer