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The woman prepared quickly and quietly in the grassy corner with the goat and four chickens on the dirt floor.
She closed her eyes and opened her mouth.
She and the man had walked for days.
A room? A bed? A blanket?
But the door at the inn closed.
The night was cold.
Warmth flooded over her, under and through her.
The hardness of the work surprised her.
One. Two. Three. Open.
She moaned and gasped for air.
The smell of hay permeated.
Four. Five. Harder. Longer. Closer.
Slipping down down down.
“My back,” she cried.
Seconds. Minutes. Hours.
Six. Seven. Quicker and harder.
Women everywhere, sisters commiserate.
Slammed to earth. Ninety seconds.
Harder. Closer. Open.
She prayed it would be over.
The moon sprayed light through the hole in the roof.
The man eyed her tossing and moaning beside him.
He was not the baby’s father.
Her cries softened under his bearded neck.
She smelled the chickens and threw up.
Harder. Harder. Harder.
Winded and tired, she managed a smile.
The two walked and drank water.
Gently, the man wrapped her in his arms.
He talked of wooden chairs and tree shavings
And she laughed.
“Silence,” she said.
Back to work.
On her knees.
One two three push
Harder harder push
Take a breath and push some more
Seconds. Minutes. An hour.
One more. Push.
Arched her back and grunted.
Rim of fire. Wait.
The baby emerged.
Soft and sticky and warm.
Covered in white cream.
She tasted her child with kisses.
The Son of the Father.
She wrapped him in her clothes
and called him Immanuel
And silenced his cries with the gift of her milk.