By Sally Buckner
So they laugh at me,
not at all discreetly, but with eyes cut sidewise,
shoulders merrily shaking.
“After all,” I can hear them say, “we can count to nine.”
Well, so can anyone with two complete hands.
They reckon me fool for calling the boy my own,
for walking to synagogue with him and Mary,
head high, our steps firm and together, her fingers
woven through mine.
The boy and I, we work
my carpentry shop, planning and turning planks.
I teach him to handle wood, to know each board
as a gift; to respect the grain, to cooperate
with tensile strength; to glove his hands in patience
when dealing with knots and splinters. And sometimes
I look from the wood we’re working and meet his eyes
and see myself in them—not reflection only,
but something of the essence of what is Joseph.
So I laugh back—
discreetly; no reason to discomfit them.
Anyhow, they would never understand
that he is my child, has always been my child,
or, for that matter, that so are their sons and daughters,
scampering the dusty, winding paths
of Nazareth, all of them, all, my children, carrying
my traditions, bearing my hopes and visions
like blossoms in their young hands. Nor would they know
the pleasure that sings in my bones when the boy comes from play
or brings me bread from his mother, and calls me Father.
That single word in his sweet treble rings holy,
not just a label, Father—like an anthem
in unison, a bell reverberating,
chiming one to worship. Father.