Skip to main content



A Father’s Questions


How can this be? It seems as if

he gives out light.  Can this be mine –

is he the child that’s just been born?


I find it hard to understand

So I ask the animals –

did you see what happened?


Why has the darkness disappeared?

What is this strange new light?

Has someone come to visit here


while I was fast asleep?

Perhaps I’m still asleep, perhaps

I’ll never know the reason why


a simple carpenter dreaming on

imagined angels flying down

with this new baby, first born son…


in the dark before I wake

wondering what a father is,

then woken by a feather touch.


What is a father?  I don’t know

everything seems so long ago.

Of course, he’s ours


and they are gone, leaving us

– sleeping wife and confused old man –

with our brand-new shining child.


Not much seems to have been written about Joseph.

Nor, come to think of it, the feelings of any new father, presented with – even confronted by – his new-born child, especially when it’s the first one.

As for Joseph – I'm not sure why he’s an old man.  Perhaps that fits better with the idea that he wasn’t the real father?

Nor am I sure that the documentation actually says that he’s old. But that’s the conventional way the story’s told and depicted, and right now I’ll go along with the traditional telling of this tale, accepting the story and not worrying about ‘truth’ – whether it really happened.

To be sure, old or young, becoming a father is a strange business.

To start with, the nine months ago event that preceded all this feels a long time ago – ancient history almost. So much has happened since then. Then there’s the birth, which he may be involved with, but that’s really about other people.

All of a sudden, there’s a baby – his baby, he knows that, but as I have Joseph asking – ‘Can this be mine?’ Does a father – any father – ever ‘own’ a baby anyway?

It may sound silly to ask where it came from, but every new father’s left wondering: he feels a sense of the extraordinary – something astonishing has happened – which could be thought of as little short of miraculous.

Poor old Joseph must have felt exhausted too. He’d have fallen asleep, no doubt dreamed.  Maybe that’s when, or even how, many of the well-told events in the story took place.

And then the baby, a shiny, brand-new baby, would have woken him up to a new day, a new world.

Like many babies, his (yes, his) radiated warmth – perhaps even light. No wonder that this particular bewildered father felt the need to talk, to ask some questions.

Who was around? No one at the moment, though various assorted people were to come and go. The silent cattle might well have been as good as any to turn to.

So there I leave this father with his unanswered questions.

A father not much thought about, being incidental, peripheral, to this (literally) wonderful story. But a father who being there, must have felt emotionally confused and full of uncertainties and unknowns.


  1. If I remember correctly

    I'm certain there wasn't any tinsel.
    Cobwebs, yes, and straw and hay
    and animal breath cutting through
    the air in great vaporous clouds
    unlike the still clear night outside
    where the old dog fox's bark
    and the frith and wisp of winter
    left that large silent star undimmed.

    I'm sure there weren't candles.
    That one bright star filled the stable
    with such a light that each ox
    and each ass and all those
    sheep and watchful shepherds
    were able to bow before the babe
    without upstaging the Angel
    of the Lord in all its glory.

    I saw no mistletoe, no halls decked,
    and no scent of pine to override
    the comforting bedding smells
    of that small stable’s inmates.
    There were no bells to ring out wildly.
    Only the intimate hush of shifting
    hooves brushing through deep litter
    to break that awed, hallowed silence.

    No mince pies either; nor carolers
    standing out in the snow though
    I did hear occasional bovine lowing,
    and saw an abundance of foreign kings,
    their milling camels adorned in tassels,
    and the woman, the sore-footed man,
    and the newly born child all alert
    to day's dawning as the cock crowed.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Signpost

Here’s a signpost – originally distinctive, being unique and handmade, and now even more so, with the evidence of ageing.   … numbers, distances, which way? While all signposts are interesting in their duty to inform, their presentation of choices and their simple declarative presence, I find this one special. It’s not just that it has much to say in terms of where you actually are, in which direction you might choose to go, how far your destination is (down to quarter mile accuracy) and even if your chosen method of transport is suitable. It’s also special in the simple elegance of its design, with the arms’ supports and the bevelled edges of the main post rising to that unexpected point. But the specialness goes further.  My friend James Ravilious took me there just at this time of year, over twenty years ago.  It was then upright and brilliant white, with crisp black letters. He certainly thought it was special, photographing it lovingly, in May 1988 ( Chawleigh Week Cross –

My blog this month isn't a poem – nor even several...

  My blog this month isn't a poem – nor even several. No, this time it's a set of little films of poems. After sharing them with several of you, I apologise straight away if you've already seen them, but you might be interested to hear some thoughts on the matter. And if you don't want to hear me thinking about making films of poems, just ignore what follows and go straight to the YouTube link.   I hope you enjoy the films. And please tell me what you think! You may remember a couple of the poems appearing in past blogs, with me writing about the possible presentation of poetry in this way. Time was when poetry existed solely as the spoken or sung word – it took some time for it to be written down.  Now, for the most part, it exists and flourishes in both these forms. Recently, and refreshingly, it seems to have been recovering more of its original orality. Now we liv

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead. I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse. Behind their cage, yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting as they cropped up tone of mush and grass to gouge their underworld garage. It took a little while for me to realise why. Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow. The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur. Here's my second verse: At first it was the one-armed monsters, set free within their caged arena to trundle round, and gently paw the ground, then pile up mounds of earth accompanied by Lego men. I was pleased