He went back once – just before the end.
Back to his beginnings. He wanted to stand
at the precise place where his mother lay
shuddering in darkness, bleeding him
into the urine-drenched hay. He wished to smell
the air, touch that spot where his life
began, holy not for his earthly coming,
but for the beginning of his single journey,
sacred only to him, only to him fully comprehended – as it is for any man.
He wanted to stroke the animals, warm
his hands on truly tattered hide, fully know both ignorance and intuition
as only ox and ass can know . . . and dogs.
He wanted to walk Jerusalem Road to Bethlehem
and back: Alpha and Omega.
I know this, for I, too, have seen the light.
I, too, have thirsted in the bright,
dry desert and been tempted
by sparkling water just out of reach.
I, too, have returned
to the place of beginnings,
stood on the road in between,
torn in two directions.
I, too, pray for a happy death.
I stand there now, even as I write this to you,
stand amid the rank straw, the ripe ox, the puzzled ass.
I shudder in the cold, starry night, Venus and Saturn beyond my reach, beyond the sight of Wise Men and Magicians.
This spot is holy only to me,
by me singly comprehended.
And standing here, I see now what he
must have seen then: only from here,
only from this place between beginnings,
are both Bethlehem and Golgotha visible.
Here in the stench of the stable
amid beasts of burden at rest,
can one see how the road stretches to Jerusalem
and back again.
I lift my arms, make a cross
of compassion, extending my hands to Bethlehem,
to Jerusalem Road and to you. Step through
the shadows and come with me. Never mind
the smell; never mind the crisp cold air
or the dark night or the bloody hand. Pay no attention
to the empty manger. Come here; take my hand. I will
guide you. I know this road. I have walked it many times
before with many others – saviors each one.
Each step is a death, each step a new beginning.
It is how we are born.
It is how we give birth.
It is the journey of wise men.