Shepherds: A Prose Poem

Jaka Skriep

“In the countryside close by
there were shepherds who lived in the fields
and took it in turns to watch
their flocks during the night”

Luke 2: 8-9 (The Jerusalem Bible)

A voice whispering rise and walk to the table at the window, the page, the pencil, and record the favor of men lost in crowds, displaced outside of family–the darkness not only of this night, shepherds tending to lambs fallen into gullies, tangled in briars

And the shepherd leaving the dog, a red merle Aussie, in charge of the bedded-down sheep, the other shepherds sleeping, and setting out to rescue the lamb, lift it to his shoulders, and lay it beside its mother, just another night following a day of watching over the herd, risking all, saving the sheep from lion and bear

Alex Hay

And then the angel appearing out of the darkness, this moonless night in the fields above Bethlehem, its flickering lights of hopeful men risen in single rooms rented for the night, lonely men feeding the fires kindled in alleys winding like a labyrinth of lost ways, lost men

And that nova of Light never before seen by shepherds, and the terror, face down and trembling, and the angel they could not know at the time, saying Don’t Be Afraid, Stand Up, Good News, Joy to faithful shepherds lifting their eyes, the heavenly host of angels having, for now, laid down their flaming swords

Thomas Willmott

Singing Glory To God, Peace to shepherds, an invitation to Bethlehem, a stable, a newborn sleeping in a manger, watched over by his mother and the gentle beasts–cow and donkey–this child born for you, so what could they do but go into the city, enter the stable and answer the child’s mother as if asking forgiveness

Painting by Julie Fink
Painting by Julie Fink

This fanciful story from the most humble of professions, working for today, whatever comes tomorrow, a day like this day, but maybe better. And what of the shepherd and the dog, having volunteered to remain, stand watch, protecting the sheep, keeping them still and safe

The shepherd and the Aussie pondering what they had seen and heard, and now this afterimage in the night sky, no longer that darkness, a penumbra of light, a promise, a sign, a star to guide them all the days and works ahead.

Mike Setchell