After Bethlehem

For the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

What will you say to the mothers?
What angels did you send to them?
You saved your own son, but no others,
that midnight in Bethlehem.

Oh, we may call them your martyrs,
the innocents slaughtered by men,
but how can we call you their Father,
who left them in Bethlehem?

This love that would let us destroy us
that freedom might not be hemmed in,
and yet, it's this love that would join us
a-weeping in Bethlehem.

It won't lift a finger to save us
from cruel and powerful men,
yet it will shift heaven to raise us
someday after Bethlehem.

But not 'til it, too, has been slaughtered
and battered and ravaged by sin,
forsaken by even the Father
long decades from Bethlehem.

Then lift up your voices, you mothers;
you fathers, cry out, and again,
for heaven looks down and it shudders
to see us in Bethlehem.

François-Joseph NavezThe massacre of the innocents, 1824 – anagoria, Public Domain,

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