Poems for the Feast of the Holy Innocents

When I pointed out this morning that our baby Matthew would have been killed had he been in those villages near Bethlehem, my fifteen-year-old daughter Bernadette was thoughtful.  This evening, she gave me a set of poems she had written, and I want to share them here:

The Mother

Have you ever seen a baby’s smile light up the room?
Seen sheer happiness for no more reason than a laugh?
Have you ever heard a baby’s song without a tune?
Or, playful, fought him for your bread, at least a half?

Then you understand my baby, little boy, only one
Then you know his awkward crawl and breathless giggle
Then you can see his wide blue eyes, blinking in the sun.
Then you have seen his waving arms and happy wriggle.

He was walking for the first time when they came,
Tiny steps to me, then – the pounding, too soon.
He stumbled, the door flew open. Soldiers without shame
Strode in. Only two, yet they filled the room.

There is blood, blood on my hands and on my face.
There is blood upon our floor and spattered on the wall.
There is blood all around me and I have no space
There is blood on my hands, for I watched him fall.

I watched him fall, and it was seared into my mind
I watched the blade withdraw as I moved, too late.
I watched as they left, to my devastation blind.
I watched over him as he grew cold. Still I wait.

Have you heard the weeping of the women fill the street?
Have you heard the wailing of the wasted, sorrow pure?
Have you heard the emptiness for which I cannot eat?
Have you heard the sound of silence for which there is no cure?

Cat’s Cry

Strange men knocked
Now, Now, Now!
At the door.

Heat and hate
they smell of,
And blood blade.

No, not him
not my boy
said woman.

Fear, flame, fast!
they struck him.
Baby fell.

Waste and woe
weeping now
Woman is.

Licked the
blood they left
lying, red.

I purr in
the woman’s
languid lap.

Strokes me
slowly, all
comfort left.

Sad, sorry,
for once the
cat will cry.

The Captain

Door after door flung open.
House after house left barren.
Babe after babe was broken.

Banished blur of shriek and shout.
Women wailing as we left.
I had orders, could not flout.

So I said, and my men heard.
Same for them, satisfied.
Since I always keep my word.

In bunk, lie with head in hands
I led my men through hell
Not worth it. For any lands.

I tore myself today, and
I cannot tell if I will
taste again trust in my hand.

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their seven children.

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