He could squint along forty foot beams
And catch the gentlest wayward drift toward a curve
That no one else saw. His calloused, pitch stained hands
Would tenderly stroke the flush seams of a perfect joint.
We used to see him astride his unwavering rafters,
Tall as the echoing blows of his worshipping arms,
Looking with pride on the loving work of his mitred,
Four square world. He always looked sharply to see
If some sinning board in somebody's house were off square,
And longed to redeem it with the righteous tongue of his plane.
She looks at me, pale and ghostly, even
though she stands full in the evening light
outside my shop door. The hammer
in my hand drops to the ground,
she fills me with such terror:
the innocent delight of her eyes gone out,
those gentle hands which she could hold
the world in wring and twist
over her stomach in the folds of her dress,
and the delicately proud line of her body—
where has it gone, stooped as if spent
from a sickness?
Her eyes drift to the ground
where earth-shaking news takes shape
in the carpet of splintered wood and nails.
MARY: Please listen and hear me out,
JOSEPH: her voice
that has so many times quickened my heart
with the lightness of a star, so heavy now.
She takes my hand, draws me closer
and places my callused palm
over a bulge in her stomach.
MARY: You must believe—
JOSEPH: How did this—
--what I need to say…
then do what you will.
My face flushes to feel this growing
in her. I try to sit, and stumble
against a pile of boards that fall
in a clattering heap,
repeating the shattering announcement
down the streets, through the open windows
and doors of the torpid town; women and
children passing by glance in bewilderment,
Reuben the blacksmith stops his clanging
three doors down.
I beg her to come inside,
my throat tight, so dry I cannot speak.
I try to think, to bring substance
to the dizzying rush
of incomprehension in my skull.
Your trip south, was it then? I ask,
That you met… that it happened?
MARY: I haven’t slept with anyone.
JOSEPH: Just tell me who.
It wasn’t that way.
An angel came to me—
JOSEPH: An angel came to you!
JOSEPH: Go! Get out!
That night in bed I stare into the dark,
do not sleep, her voice that was not her own,
her words haunting me, my Mary,
visions of her betrayal mocking me:
strange hands in her dark, velvet hair,
her skin so tender against his,
her warm breath
on his face, lips, limbs merging—
Was it awkward, timid?
or yearning and confident?
I try to cry but cannot,
the wound too deep, and burning,
SONG: You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
ANGEL. And the angel, taking due pains, told
the man who clenched his fists:
But can't you see in her robe's every fold
that she is cool as the Lord's morning mists?
But the other, gazing gloomily, just murmured:
JOSEPH. What is it has wrought this change in her?
ANGEL. Then cried the angel to him:
Carpenter, can't you see that God is acting here?
Because you plane the planks, in your pride would
you really make the Lord God answerable
who unpretentiously from the same wood
makes the leaves burst forth, the young buds swell?
JOSEPH. He understood that.
ANGEL. And now as he raised
his frightened glance toward the angel who
was gone already...
GUITAR INSTRUMENTAL: What Child Is This?
It was from Joseph first I learned
Of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
Me from his house; but, unafraid,
He put me not away from him
(O God sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.
The Child's first cry came like a bell:
God's Word aloud, God's Word in deed.
The angel spoke: so it befell,
And Joseph with me in my need.
O Child whose father came from heaven,
To you another gift was given,
Your earthly father chosen well.
With Joseph I was always warmed
And cherished. Even in the stable
I knew that I would not be harmed.
And, though above the angels swarmed,
Man's love it was that made me able
To bear God's Love, wild, formidable,
To bear God's Will, through me performed.
Sleep now, little one.
I will watch while you and your mother sleep.
I wish I could do more.
This straw is not good enough for you.
Back in Nazareth I'll make a proper bed for you
of seasoned wood, smooth, strong, well‑pegged.
A bed fit for a carpenter's son.
Just wait till we get back to Nazareth.
I'll teach you everything I know.
You'll learn to choose the cedarwood, eucalyptus, and fir.
You'll learn to use the drawshave, ax, and saw.
Your arms will grow strong, your hands rough ‑‑ like these.
You will bear the pungent smell of new wood
and wear shavings and sawdust in your hair.
You'll be a man whose life centers
on hammer and nails and wood.
But for now,
sleep, little Jesus, sleep.
SONG: Golden Slumbers
assembled from excerpts from the following (in order of appearance);
Four-Square, by Roderick Jellema
Joseph's Night Watch, by Karl Petersen
Joseph's Suspicion, by Rainer Maria Rilke
O Sapientia, by Madeleine L'Engle
Joseph's Lullaby, by Ron Klug