There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. (Matthew 6:…25-26
Mary punched the dough down hard,
kneading out her frustrations,
bruising fingers, brushing hair back
and streaking her face with flour.
“You must talk to him Joseph…
four years he is,
and already I can say nothing to him.
“‘Eat your crust,’ I say to his brother,
‘you don’t know where your next loaf is coming from…
’and Y’shua says, all innocence,
‘But mother, you must not worry,
the bread comes from my father.’
“‘Your father works hard,’ I say,
long hours bent over plane and chisel,
to buy us flour for bread, and don’t you forget it.’
“‘No,’ he says,
‘my father God gives it…
We make him glad. He loves us.’
“‘Oh, I am forgetting,’ I say,
‘with God for a father you don’t have to worry…
your belly will always be full…’”
Her breath caught and held on
the serrated edge between laugh and sob.
She turned from the work,
whipping hands on apron as she came,
halting, to the far shadowed end of the table
to take the stool across from Joseph and sit,
hands loose in her lap,
eyes half way to wonder from worry.
“I do forget, Joseph,
the way of it even,
the why of it I have never understood,
but I forget whole days at a time that he is not ours…
I don’t know what to say to him. How will he live?”
Joseph swirled the last sediment-laden
swallow of wine in his cup seeking, perhaps,
an answer there, before the pleading silence of his wife’s concern,
more wanting than his own,
pulled his eyes up and the words out.
“That’s maybe my fault as much as yours.
The other day as we came from
feeding and milking the goats,
you know how he’s always at my heel about the yard,
he asks, ‘Abba, who feeds the birds?’
I look to see what set him off this time
and there’s a flock of blackbirds
calling and circling off toward the waddy.
“‘Oh,’ I say, ‘God takes care of them…
’I suppose I was thinking of the Psalm,
toward the end there,
we heard at synagogue last Sabbath.”
He laughed, lightly, self consciously,
drank off the wine swirl and smiled
across to her, remembering,
and happy with it.
“You know the flowers there just by the path,
some weedy thing I should have pulled
before it got fair hold, I turned to them…
‘See how he dresses the grass,’ I say,
thinking of the psalms again,
‘in crowns and gowns any king,
even Solomon, would be proud of…
God takes care of his creatures.’”
“‘But why, Abba,’ he asks, ‘why does he care for them?’”
“‘Because,’ I say, and I don’t know what made me say it,
‘he loves them.
The birds sing his glory morning and evening,
day-long, and the flowers reflect
all the colors of his invisible robes.
It makes him glad. He loves them.’”
“‘And are we his creatures too?’ he pipes,
and I can’t help laughing at the seriousness of him,
but he deserves a serious answer, and I try.
“‘Say his children, rather,
more than creatures surely,
it is written, his chosen people.’”
“He gets that far off look of his,
standing there fingering a flower.
‘And are we more to him than the birds and grasses then?’”
“‘Surely,’ I say, and his face lights.”
“‘Then I will be just like them and make him glad.’
and off he goes,
running up the path as though the whole thing
was a great load off his mind.”
Mary stood and moved the circle of her distraction
to the floured end of the table to idle,
unseeing, before the loaf.
Joseph circled in turn behind,
“He’ll do it too…”
He put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to him.
“Or I don’t know him. Or his father.
You watch…he’ll never know an anxious day…”
He kissed her brow where the wrinkles brooded
like the spirit over the unformed substance of the first day,
then pushed her out to arms length
to catch her eye and smile once more.
“Nor should we.
He is who he is.
How could God be anything but glad?”
And he was off himself, back to the shop,
to the wood and tools, the smell of shavings,
the work, whistling,
the whole thing a great load off his mind.
Mary moved her hands into the dough,
listening to the babble of children’s voices
from the yard outside,
Y’shua’s among them, as full of joy,
as full of glory, as any bird’s.
Slowly, of themselves,
her fingers began the kneading,
kneaded slowly harder,
and slowly harder still.