“There” — Poem #2 of the Birthday Card Poems


A Birthday Card Poem #2

By Jane Tawel


“Cold hands equal a warm heart,” Mama used to say.

I wonder if her hands feel as cold as mine do,

Nailed above my hanging head,


I keep thinking about the beginning.

Oh! The stars!

The Star!

And I –almost human,

Barely just alive,

And all the people smiling, cooing, touching, weeping with joy.

Caught up in a contagion of hope and love, they were, back there

On that night.



Now, this day,

Now, only she weeps,

And not with joy.

And the rest of them laugh, or run away,

staying back as far as possible

From my almost corpse.

Afraid to be caught up in the contagion of death

As I hang here, barely still human.



The beginning was glorious.

They say babies can’t remember their birth,

But some of us can.

I do.

The wood of the stall where I began this life,

Felt nothing like this wood.

This wood, so unnaturally shaped (no tree could grow like this),

This wood, my arms and legs are splayed upon,

 is splintered, rotting, rough;

Worth nothing but the fire after I hang here on it today.

Contaminated by death, it will be

No longer of any use to anyone, after this day.

Just as I will be, no longer useful,

After this day.



People think a baby isn’t born to be useful,

But I was.

I was born to be of Good use;

Like a tree planted by streams of water,

Yielding fruit in season.


There, in Bethlehem,

Exhausted as they were from days of rough travel

Anxiety and fear making Joseph sweat and Mary weep

In pain, from journeying by kings’ decrees.

In pain, as Jews have always been.

Will always be.

In pain as I am, here, on this cross.

By the time they arrived there

Was no room.



Oh, I remember.

Though now, I am blinded with agony

and delirious, perhaps from loss of blood,

I can see perfectly, in my mind’s eye,

My birth-day.

My birth had spent my mother—body and soul,

She was weak from loss of blood there,

As I am here,

Our loss of blood like two parentheses enfolding my life.

She was so tired…

So very, very tired we were sometimes….

Until she could barely hold me to her breast.

Joseph, with strong hands, made feeble by my birth,

gently snuggled me down into the hay.

Some babies do remember;

We really do.


Like a baby bird made safe in my new nest,

I looked for the first time upon this world,

A world of trees, and stars, and faces;

And all seemed, back there,

Exactly as it seems to me today at the end:

The world is all so very new and as very, very old

as all Newborns know

The world to be.



The wooden trough where my parents nestled my infant form,

 was as soft as silk

From years of animal tongues, licking, honing, softening

Until not a splinter remained.

There, the wood was as lush and sweet-smelling and soft

As a king’s cradle.

My fledgling family baptized that wood

With my birth pangs.

That trough was anointed by shepherds and sheep

By kings and sages.

Who will anoint the cradle my body dies on today?


We had to flee that place,

Jews always do eventually.

But I like to imagine that wooden manger

 Is still there today,

A cradle where I was first loved,

Where I first loved.

 Wood, if properly cared for

Can be useful forever.

Trees, even in death, have long lives,

Eternal, one might say.

I know that as well

As any Master Carpenter should.

My earthly father, Joseph,

Taught me all about wood.

I think about that manger


feeding the sheep again.



And suddenly, dying here now

 I feel I might join in

The laughter of the crowd below.

They would think me as more insane than they already do,

The crazy “King of the Jews”,

 but I Am

Secretly thinking about the irony,

Of the parentheses of my life;

The parenthesis of two wooden instruments,

One of life,

One of death,

Bracketing my life

Like wooden signposts

Leading forward.



Yes, perhaps I have just enough faith to think that—

Just enough words to tell them all, that–

both the wood of my cradle

And the wood of this cross

Are useful tools,

Are instruments of life,

Are places where human babies are safe,

Are symbols

Of birth.



The strange parentheses of my cradle and cross,

Will have no end.

The wooden brackets that surround my name,

Will lead people forward.

( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( (

When I was There,

I was already Here,

Going like a lamb from

Trough to slaughter.

The final bracket remains unknown

On the other side, Over There.


But I am not laughing, No,

Yes, I am crying instead;

Not so much from the pain,

Though it is almost more than I can bear;

Not so much from looking at my mother’s face,

Ravaged with sorrow,

Or from gazing weakly

At the few unlikely friends weeping there,

Those few who risk their lives to

Watch me die.



I weep

for the wood

   this earthly rood.

This tree I die on here,

Will never be useful again,

This tree too, dies with me today;

And it seems the whole world of creation,

Weeps with sorrow for the tree, once a sapling,

that dies here today; and for the

Son of Man

 who dies

here on

the tree.




“My soul is consumed with sorrow, to the point of death!

Like a sheep before its shearers I am silent,

I cannot open my mouth.

My soul is offered up as guilt offering,

And I will never see my offspring,

I can no longer prolong my life,

It is finished.”

But almost as I end my life here,

the still small voice,

Of My Father,

who awaits me There,


“Oh, My Son, this tree, too

Will feed the sheep.

And You, My Child,

Will be with Me, Here,


Feeding Your offspring

At your own breast

As your mother once fed you.

You My Son,

Will live to have many babies,

Reborn because You

Cradled them here today.”



(So, because of my mother’s willingness to serve My Father

I, her child, was born.

And because of my willingness to serve My Father,

My own children will be re-born.)


I embrace this wooden cross,

In death,

As once that wooden cradle embraced me,

In life.

My first breath, began the struggle.

My final breath is a fight to give it all up.

 I can just make out the words—

So faint—

Like whispers hovering over the void

Of the world–

Is it memory, dream or present reality?

The words I hear now,

 as my mother and My Father coo me to sleep,

As my mother and My Father gently sing,

“There, there. There, there, my Child. There, there.”


I Love You, Mary, Because You Were Human A Christmas Poem by Jane Tawel


I Love You, Mary, Because You Were Human

By Jane Tawel

December 17, 2017



I love you, Mary, because you were human

Not a queen, not a god, not a saint

You lived as a woman for all of your life

With all that we know as Sin’s taint


You worked for your family

You watched your sons grow

You worried and grumbled and cried

You doubted the God whom you had once nursed

And you fell away from Christ’s side


You thought He was crazy

Your other sons did too

You hoped Jesus would come back home

You cried for His dangers

You begged God for mercy

Your mother’s heart weathered Christ’s storm


And yet, you were one

Of The Lord’s greatest servants

You put parent’s power aside

You stopped being mother

And your Son was your brother

As you watched your womb’s Son of God die


If Mary were perfect

At a time that held women

As little more than life’s scraps

Then how could I, a woman today

Ever hope to climb out of sin’s trap?


Because you were human

Oh, Mary, my sister

Then what you did was more rare

When you met the Angel

And agreed God could use you

Giving up all your dreams for a prayer



Oh, Mary, my sister, I love you because

You are like all the women I know

Who give God their own dreams

At risk of life’s thrown stones

And grant Christ our own frail womb-homes


I love you, Mary, because you were human

Not a queen, not a god, but a girl

Who longed for a Savior

As do all we, Women

Who bare children we pray change the world


I love you, Mary because you were human

I look forward to talking someday

You can tell me your story, I’ve read in the Bible

And I’ll share my own walk on The Way

We’ll introduce our own children

And be praised not for titles

But for being good mothers, and being disciples


And then we’ll both kneel

To the King that you birthed

And the God-man who came

To save all the earth

And yes, all the world will love you, dear Mary

You, who were like every girl who exists

Who says to God, “yes”

And therefore, is blessed

To grant God a womb-home for Christ