Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Mark Jarman

How can they sleep? Joseph awkwardly
pillows his head on a ledge in the sand,
and Mary between the Sphinx’s stone paws
leans back with the child aglow in her lap.

Yet they are sleeping. The smoke of their fire
pays out a vanishing thread to heaven.
Their donkey grazes on bones of grasses,
his saddle a shelter for darkened sand.

There are no stars. Perhaps they have fallen,
increasing the grains of drifted sand.
But, no. It is dawn. The statue has seen it,
and so has the child – high in the east.

The donkey goes on breaking its fast.
The exhausted parents continue to sleep.
And two pairs of eyes, a child’s and a monster’s,
keep their watch on a world of sand.

After the painting by Luc-Olivier Merson