And she gave birth to her firstborn son 
               and wrapped him in bands of cloth (Luke 2:7)

Advent, and I’m down on my knees 
under the rafters, dragging out 
the manger scene my mother

mailed to me in 1969, all the way out 
to San Antonio, the first year 
of my marriage, when I was so sick

with the crushing loneliness that came 
of telling no one in the world 
how really miserable I was.

Advent, and I’m taking them one 
by one from inside the crumbling 
cardboard stable, unwrapping them:

the chipped plaster Mary and Joseph, 
the shepherds and sheep, the one cow. 
Last of all, the baby in the manger:

as plump as he’s represented in paintings 
by Raphael, but so small I can close 
my fingers over him, make him disappear.

His eyes are closed, his mouth a dot of 
red paint. He’s lying naked on the sculpted 
straw, except for one stroke of white

across his middle—perfunctory, not like 
real swaddling, but think of the loincloths 
artists provide, depicting the crucifixion.

Arms outstretched, one chubby foot 
fixed to the other at the ankle: 
so dear, but also so exposed.