She took it all in: the shepherds and the royal and learned men with their prophecies and proclamations. Resting among common beasts, nipples sore and womb-ached, she smiled at their praise—but her awe had begun with the angel’s decree. At the mysterious life-pulse deep inside her. When flicker- kicks strengthened to rolls and turns, elbows and heels in her ribs. As buttocks bounced on her bladder. The brightest star above them—a wondrous sign, but no more miraculous than when, far from her mother and the other village women, the flesh of her depth awakened and she willed the baby from contentment into a harsh night. His cry pierced the darkness, then quieted as, pressed to her breast, he found her heartbeat again.
“After Luke 2:19” by Michelle Ortega, reproduced here by the author’s permission, was written for the 2021–22 exhibition Mary, Mary: Contemporary Poets and Artists Consider Mary at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia. Ortega is the author of the chapbooks Don’t Ask Why (Seven Kitchens Press, 2020) and Tissue Memory (Porkbelly Press, forthcoming).