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Christmas Riddles

By Brother Augustine Towey

1.
I am the ox.
I am stupid, but worse I
Am heavy and slow.
So I stayed in the corner behind them
And my breath (not the kindest of breaths as well)
Made a blanket of air
For warmth.

2.
I am the donkey
(Some call me an ass.)
Dumber than dishwater,
Slower than boiled potatoes,
I had nothing to do that night but wait.
Later they rode me out of danger.

3.
I am the cow
The innkeeper lent them
Mostly for food
(Milk if necessary.)
Not meant for a stable, I belonged next door
In the barn with my others.

4.
I am the angel
With wings and flight
And an excess of light.
I had no song but a trumpet of words that said
Here's what you waited for:
Ox and ass and cow and child,
Bewildered spouse and Mother mild.
Are you happy now? Pretty picture,
Not much else but to put them on a card.

5.
I am a shepherd.
I came with the others
Who nudged me from sleep
As I dreamt of her,
Of her long dark hair,
Of her long dark hair and delicate breasts.
I startled her away in my dream
And couldn't wait to see if, awake, she
Was looking at me.

6.
We are kings.
There are three of us
Who come with gifts, but
Finally leave with faces of surprise.
We search for a king but found a child.

7.
I am the child

Resting on straw
Above me I can see the ox's nostrils,
The cow's great udder, the crisscross of timber under the roof,
And the face of the woman I believe my Mother.
The ass's braying and the cow's mooing
Shake me from sleep.
What is this place? Why are we here?
I have so many questions.
The answers will wait, I suppose, until later.
This is not what I imagined, not at all.


This poem by BROTHER AUGUSTINE D. TOWEY originally appeared in his 2008 collection "The Poem You Asked For and Other Poems" published by Arthur McAllister Press. It was republished on Christmas week of that year in The News. Brother Towey, the founder and longtime director of the nationally recognized Niagara University Theatre program, and a much-beloved figure in the Buffalo theater and arts communities for over four decades, died November 22 in Philadelphia after a long illness. He was 75.