Waiting for the Second Coming

by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum
Second Place, January 2018
Judged by C. Wade Bentley

The cattle are lowing
but there’s no baby in the manger. Christmas day
dawns cold and bright without a star to follow
or Wise Men who come trudging over the whitened

hills. All I see are the swaying backsides of Guernseys,
tails flicking flies out of habit. They waddle
like old ladies answering the call of church bells
weary from lugging oversized purses

filled with life’s necessary nothings.
They stare in wide-eyed astonishment
that I’ve left the warmth of the house, presents
unopened under the tree as the others snore

snugly in their beds. The sucking sound
of my rubber boots in the mud draws them
closer. I lead them one by one into the stalls,
smear antiseptic on the udders, attach

the metal fingers. Liquid rushes through tubing
as the gentle massage begins and the collection tank
fills. I listen to the whir of the vacuum motor,
unthinkingly replace one cow with another.

If there’s a Messiah born on this day,
surely he would be here, nestled dryly
in the loft, adored by his teenage parents,
who fled their own Caesars and Herods,

I want to rise from this damp straw
that smells of dung, urine and sour milk
to behold the radiance of his face,
the peaceful reassurance that miracles await.

But I’m afraid all I’d find is two scared children
holding a screaming baby, the bloody
afterbirth matted in the hay, a beat-up
Volkswagen hidden behind a clump of evergreens,

and their eyes begging the blessing of my silence.
As the last udder is emptied, a halo
of light descends from the loft window
to circle my thorn-crowned head, and it is finished.

There’s a Ted Kooser quality to this poem, which is high praise, in my book. The voice feels entirely authentic and confident. I believe the sucking sound of the speaker’s boots in the muck. I believe he/she knows her/his way around a milking barn. As always, for me, I need the poet to ground me in a place, give me a chance to look around, or else I am not able to listen to any grander ideas the poem might present. And this poet does so, beautifully. It’s the “oversized purses,” early in the poem that allow me to accept the “thorn-crowned head” at the end. --C. Wade Bentley