Bedlam In Bethlehem

Probably at sea,
not in what seems now safe straw of a stable
will Jesus be born this year;
drifting unanchorable off the apt Christmas island,
His parents having fled
a horror dust bowl near the Pakistan border
Or yet another suicide bomber.

Bedlam is Bethlehem of course
In a world which seems divided between asylum seekers,
and asylum suited purveyors of war;
with those who cower, waiting for the lunacies to subside
and those who as asylum keepers send noxious letters
so far removed from the true word
as to be the unintelligibility of hate.

Into the bedlam of the heart of the world
Into the bedlam of our making and unmaking
Be born, we beg you, sweet Jesus
With word of good
Word to guide;
Be born to us this time once more.
Can we guarantee safe haven? Seems unlikely.
Do we need your precious presence? Beyond doubt.
We welcome you from our stammering, inarticulate hideouts
To bring some semblance of peace,
Some touch of order,
Some morsel of mercy.

*the word bedlam was originally a contraction for the Hospital of St.Mary in Bethlehem, the asylum for the insane founded in London in the 16th century. Ironically, the building is now used as the Imperial War Museum. The word asylum has a rich history too, and it is worth noting that the original building plans for Catherine McAuley’s House of Mercy in Baggot St Dublin describe part of the building as an asylum (i.e. refuge) for women.