death of an Aboriginal man, Ocky, at the back of the
the dim back corner of the Church. A little row of medicine
bottles for his chest complaint, a little carrier bag,
a few papers, the plate of his last meal, and some tattered
blankets on the floor. Beside his head, a pair of thick-lensed
beside the stiffened shell of him lying, as if asleep,
and humble on the straw matting as his only bed,
thought I was present at the birth of Christ
deathbed of the poor is always the Stable of Bethlehem,
stable contained within itself
places that are symbols of rejection,
where the poor are born and live and die
there is no room for them amongst the well-to-do.
I knelt and looked at him, something happened in my
though a golden disk was spinning before my eyes,
side engraved with the death of Ocky,
other side with the birth of Christ.
sides of the one reality; I couldn't tell if I were
present at a birth or at a death.
Ted and Christine tried to contact relatives,
lifted him and laid him on his back, out of respect.
took his shoulders, I his ankles
my heart cracked as I felt him, light and brittle
a dry gum branch, like an abandoned cicada shell
suddenly I knew for certain that the spirit does not
I knew my certainty was Ocky's gift in death to me.
was I kneeling beside the dead shell of Ocky on the
beside the new-born Liberator on the straw at Bethlehem?
coldness and the stiffness and the smell of death were
man in his final helplessness....
how come my mind went not to the Crucifixion or Entombment
to the birth of Christ?
was something new there, something fresh and full of
just the body of an old man dead.
am convinced beyond all argument
when a poor man dies, Christ's birth is celebrated anew;
Poor One, rejected from the shelter available to the
Poor One, whose birthplace was a dim corner on the straw,
Poor One, without power or possessions.
of God but despised by the rich.
by Karen Donaldson