Perturbed, the old king gave you all he had;
ransacked the market place for leathern boots
and finest mounts; discussed the merits of
his camels, elephants, perhaps on horse?
“Now, what of gifts?  Would gold be suitable
d’ye think?  Or maybe frankincense, or myrrh?

Not kings but scientists – well, of your day –
Oh, how you cultured men could read the skies!
“Look”, you’d said, “look over to the starry west,
see Jove conjunctio with Cronos old –
Protector of the Jews with highest King!
The Herald star in proud Orion’s pack
doth point to this new birth, of he who comes
in final resolution of the prophets’ doom.”

Not that we doubt your probity, your truth.
Like academics throughout time, the funding need
is great, what harm to cause a small alarm
in such a cause, of finding god in man.

But did you even see, as you rode west,
the temples tumbled into disrepair?
The little valley of your second camp
was formed through heights invisible at night,
with Cybele coldly staring down at you
as heedlessly, you settled down to rest.

Those ruined stones, now overgrown with moss
where some few peasants clung to shreds of life,
they slaughtered, roasted for you their last lamb –
did you then smile at the nice irony
of Aries’ final night, served hot, with mint?
Those ragged stones were once a mighty ziggurat
on holy earth, Astarte’s meeting place
with gentle goatherd and their sacred marriage bed.

Closer now, and in the shady spot you picked
for picnic lunch, the saddlebags were hung
up high, away from scorpions and snakes
in branches of a tree now cursed, bereft
of girls with gifts, of offerings for easy birth,
of women dancing round their Asherah.

At winter solstice, when the sun hung still
You sensed that journey’s end was nigh, this town,
this overcrowded city must be where
you’ll find the one you seek, the god as man.
But first encounter’s with a moonstruck ass
with belly slung down low to touch the road,
spine rippling under hugely pregnant girl,
her face tear-streaked, exhaustion very close.
She’s hardly in her teens - but “Look out there!”
Proud stallions high-step and pass her by.
She’ll eat your dust; your journey must resume -
You seek a deity, but not in woman’s womb.

©Geraldine Charles