By Ken Sehested
consigned to the margins
of Incarnation narrative.
now shield the shame
of sagging face, drooping, disgraced.
Chiseled lines prematurely sculpting
age in youthful countenance.
Thoughts of Mary smudge the heart
as tears smear the face.
Mary. Beloved. Betrothed. Betrayed?
Mary. With child. Whose? How, and why?
Joseph, companion in confusion
over God’s intention.
No multi-colored coat for you as for
your scoundrel namesake of old.
But who dares answer, much less complain?
Made redundant by the very breath of God.
What became of you?
Obedient to heaven’s outrageous instructions
amid Caesar’s assessment.
Unable to provide more than squalid accommodation
in your beloved’s night of travail.
Enduring embarrassed encounters
with wild-eyed shepherds and
from obscure and distant lands,
each with incredulous stories of starry encounters.
Then hurtling toward Egypt—a land still haunted
by chained voices of ancestral slaves
—only steps ahead of Herod’s rage, the
Ramah-voice of Rachel weeping in the wind.
Did compliance with heaven’s intrigue
cause your undoing?
Was it more than your pride could endure?
Or did Rome nail you to one of its trees,
anonymously, sharing the sentence
of countless other Palestinian fathers,
left hanging in imperial ambition
years before the similar fate
of Mary’s fetal promise?
Did you map that road
for him as he did for us?
Loving Mary more than posterity itself.
A future eclipsed by divine drama,
a fate unrecorded, left to the imagination
of bath-robed youngsters in seasonal pageants.
But not forgotten in the heart of God
or, even to this day, in the prayers
of shipwrecked sailors
and abandoned children.
Consort of Mary,
accomplice of God.
Chaperon the prayers of all
who disappear from history.
Supporting cast in the
larger story of redemption,
leaving no trace other than the faint
moisture of tears on some beloved’s face.
Vouchsafe the memory of such shadowed faces,
anonymous names, ’til their inscription in
the Lamb’s Book of Life.
—Ken Sehested is co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, NC, and author of “Joseph” was inspired by Matthew 1:18-25.