Child Jesus Poem
One midday towards the end of spring
I had a dream clear as a photograph.
I saw Jesus come down to earth.
He descended by a mountain path
Made a child once more,
To run and roll himself in the grass
And pluck the flowers and toss them
And laugh in a way that can be heard from afar.
He'd run away from heaven.
He was too much like us to pretend he was
The second person of the trinity.
In heaven everything was false, everything out of keeping
With flowers and trees and stones.
In heaven he always had to be serious
And from time to time become a man again
And mount the cross and always be dying
With a crown of thorns on his head
And his feet hammered-down with a spiked nail,
And with a cloth wrapped about his waist
Just like the black men in those pictures.
He wasn't even allowed to have a mother and father
Like other children.
He was fathered by two people –
An old man called Joseph, who was a carpenter,
And who wasn't his father;
And his other father was a silly dove,
The only ugly dove in the whole world
Because it wasn't of this world nor was it a dove.
And his mother hadn't loved anyone before having him.
She wasn't a woman: she was a carry-case
In which he arrived from heaven.
And they wanted him, born only of a mother,
And who never had a father to love with respect,
To preach unity and justice!
One day while God was sleeping
And the Holy Spirit was off flying,
He went to the miracle box and stole three.
With the first he ensured that nobody would find out that he'd run away.
With the second he made himself eternally human and a child.
With the third he created a Christ who'd remain eternally on the cross
And left him nailed to the cross in heaven
To serve as a model for all others.
Afterwards he ran away toward the sun
And came down on the first sun-beam he could catch.
Today he lives with me in my village.
He's a natural child with a beautiful smile.
He wipes his nose with his right arm,
Stamps in the puddles,
Picks flowers and admires them and forgets them.
He throws stones at the donkeys,
Steals fruit from the orchards
And scampers away, crying and screaming, from the dogs.
And, because he knows they don't like it
And everyone finds it funny,
He runs behind the girls
Who pass in groups along the pathways
With water-pots on their heads
And pulls up their skirts.
He has taught me everything.
He taught me how to look at things.
He pointed out all the things that can be found in flowers.
He showed me how funny the stones are
When people take them in their hand
And look at them slowly.
He speaks very badly of God.
He tells me he is a sick and silly old man,
Always spitting on the floor
And saying rude things.
The Virgin Mary spends all the eternal afternoons sewing.
And the Holy Spirit scratches itself with its beak
And roosts in the heavenly seats and dirties them.
Everything in heaven is silly like the Catholic Church.
He tells me that God pays no attention
To the things that he created –
"If he actually created them, which I doubt" –
"He says, for instance, that all living things sing his glory,
But living things don't sing anything.
If they sang they would be singers.
Living things exist and nothing more,
And that's why they are called living things".
And afterwards, tired of speaking badly of God,
The child Jesus falls asleep in my arms
And I carry him into the house.
He lives with me in my house on the hillside.
He's the Eternal Child, the god that was missing.
He is both human and natural,
The divine one who smiles and plays.
And by this I know in all certainty
That he's truly the Child Jesus.
And he's the child who's so human he's divine
And this is my daily life as a poet,
And the reason I'm always a poet is because he's always with me,
And the merest glance
Fills me with emotion,
And the least sound, whatever it is,
Seems to speak to me.
This New Child who lives where I live
Offers one hand to me
And the other to everything that exists
And so the three of us walk on our way,
Leaping and singing and laughing
And enjoying our shared secret,
Which is knowing that in all places
The world holds no mystery
And that everything's worthwhile.
The Eternal Child always accompanies me.
My glance follows the direction in which his finger points.
My hearing, joyfully attuned to all sounds,
Is the playful way he tickles me about the ears.
We understand each other so well
In whatever company
That we never think about each other,
But live together the two of us
In intimate agreement
Like a right and left hand.
As evening falls we play at tossing stones
On the front step of the house,
Serious, as becomes a god and a poet,
And as if every stone
Were a whole universe
And as if it were a great danger
Should one fall to the ground.
Afterwards I tell him stories about men and of things relating to man
And he laughs, because everything is incredible.
He laughs at kings and at those who aren't kings,
And it saddens him to hear about wars,
And about trade, and of the ships
That throw smoke into the air on the high seas.
Because he knows that all this falls short of the truth
That a flower has to blossom
And follow the sunlight
Varying the mountains and valleys
And making one's eyes ache beside the whitewashed walls.
After this he falls sleep and I put him to bed.
I carry him in my arms into the house
And lay him down, undressing him slowly
As if following the tenderest ritual,
An utterly maternal one, until he is completely naked.
He sleeps within my soul
And sometimes wakes at night
And plays with my dreams.
He turns some of them upside down,
Throws some on top of others
And applauds his own efforts
Smiling at my sleepiness.
When I die, little boy,
I'll then be the child, the smallest one.
Take me in your arms
And carry me into your house.
Undress my worn-out human-self
And lay me in your bed.
And tell me stories if I awake
To send me back to sleep.
And give me your dreams to play with
Until the coming of the day
That you already know of.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This is the story of my Child Jesus.
Why shouldn't it be seen
As being any less true
Than all that's been thought by philosophers
And all that's been taught by religion?
translated from the Portuguese by Michael Lee Rattigan