If my pre-teen daughter came to me
and said she was pregnant and God
was the father, and the fetus she carried
would be the one to save us all, I would
slap her face around to the back of her head,
which is likely what Mary’s mother did
when her girl announced that she’d skipped
The fury of this mother is easy to imagine,
given the small town in which they lived
and the speed with which such news
would travel door to door, like the tenth
plague in Egypt.
Looking into her child’s wide eyes, the mother
of Mary didn’t see the creche with nodding donkey
and cud-chewing cow, disheveled shepherds beside
gift-bearing kings, and a holy child in the middle,
his pudgy fingers raised in the universal
sign of blessing.
What she saw was horror; a thunderhead rising up
dark and foreboding, swallowing the sky, their home,
her daughter; spinning them all into the squall of
danger and shame.
She acted quickly, before the knowing nods
started, and bustled Mary off to her pregnant
cousin’s house in the hills far away where
the two could gestate together. Mary would
return childless, and the cousin would raise
a set of twins.
The heat of my palm cools; the hand-mark
fades on the daughter’s face in my mind and
young girls visiting relatives out of town
hold their breath and quietly give their