You may have noticed that the last few poems are about the Adoration of the Magi. That's because while different denominations disagree about exactly when the Magi arrived in Bethlehem to pay homage to the Infant Christ, they all agree it did not happen on the night He was born. For that reason, my tradition is to save the Epiphany poems (or whatever I'm posting in any given year) for the last few days of the project. Like this one, for example, which strikes me as a bit unusual for an Epiphany poem. Poems and stories that describe the Nativity from the standpoint of a bystander are pretty common, but I'm not aware of any such Epiphany poems aside from this one.
The Adoration of the Magi
It was the arrival of the Kings
that caught us unawares;
we'd looked on the woman in the barn,
curiosity you could call it,
something to do on a cold winters night;
we'd wished her well—
that was the best we could do, she was in pain,
and the next thing we knew
she was lying on the straw
—the little there was of it—
and there was a baby in her arms.
It was as I say the Kings
that caught us unawares. . .
Women have babies every other day,
not that we are there—
lets call it a common occurrence though,
giving birth. But Kings
appearing in a stable with a
'Is this the place?' and kneeling,
each with his gift held out towards the child!
They didn't even notice us.
Their robes trailed on the floor,
rich, lined robes that money couldn't buy.
What must this child be
to bring Kings from distant lands
with costly incense and gold?
What could a tiny baby make of that?
And what were we to make of it
was it angels falling through the air,
entwined and falling as if from the rafters
to where the gaze of the Kings met the child's
—assuming the child could see?
What would the mother do with the gift?
What would become of the child?
And we'll never admit there are angels
or that between one man's eye and another's
is a holy place, a space where a king could be
at one with a naked child,
at one with an astonished soldier.
Christopher Pilling (born 1936)