The Photograph (In Remembrance of Christmas)

The stage depicting a quiet setting:

a babe in a crib sleeping silently;

the centre of attention.

His mother and father gazing fondly;

indeed, a scene of affection.


Call in the photographer to capture this moment:

“The fulfilment of a Prophecy; a powerful theme.”

“Did I hear right? Why isn’t he keen?”

Did he say, “there ain’t much of a subject here?!”

“What can we add so it doesn’t look bare?”

“Would it help if we decorate with holly, tinsel and a Christmas Tree?”


“We can also add Santa, the reindeer, a sledge full of toys,

puddings and cakes and candy that cloys.

How about some music to lighten the air?

Like Band Aid to show that we care.

But they seem to be resting on laurels of glories gone by.

They didn’t show up this year anyway.


“Carol singers maybe?”

“No not the drummer boy with his rat-tat-tums

but the big names, the famous ones

like Elvis lamenting his loneliness or

George Michael his carelessness

or the rest of the crap we listen to on Christmas Day.”


The stage is full to overflowing,

more than could be framed by a fish-eyed lens.

I’m sure Ebenaezer  enjoyed Christmas at lesser expense.

The ghost of the future predicts a worse fate for

owners of wealth misused than of wealth unused.


Suddenly the baby cries

(although the extras do not realise)


The photographer flinches uneasily.


“Do we have to put up with the wails of that waif?

Who is he anyway to be on this set?

Take him away. His place may be occupied by

Befania’s black cat.”


The child is removed.

History repeats itself year after year.

We, like the Magi, search in palaces

but the answer is, “He isn’t here.”


As for the photograph it remains bare.


James Portelli, Christmas 1990

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