Tl;dr?! The Christmas story. A clean porcelain nativity. News that $1T USD would be spent on the Christmas holiday (2016). I was inspired to write a piece of Ekphrastic poetry. And I finish with a holiday photo inspired by the art of Hilma af Klint.


Or not.


The nativity tableau, the crèche so clean, but the story so, so messy. A stable is not a safe, clean place to bear a child and entertain guests from afar. It smells. It is dirty. It is not well lit.

And birth. Infants present as independent ecosystems that are very, very dependent. Their survival is dependent on older others and in this story, the others are tired and scared. The sacred scared nativity surrounding a makeshift crèche is the result of leaving a country in a big hurry and landing in a place where hoteliers claim there is no room. They don’t know anyone. Do they even speak the language? Mary gave birth, gave life, to the Son of God. She is sore and tired. Comforts she had known are missing. Family is afar. She wants to bathe herself and her infant and eat and snuggle and sleep.

Joseph would like some sleep too. It was hurried long trip. Gifted with this new addition, charged with the care and feeding of an infant, the Son of God the angel said, the hurried flight from Judaea, their situation is bleak. He and Mary have made it this far but they are destitute, on entry the stench in the stable is overpowering, Joseph craves some sleep. He is sure their next move will be clear to him with some sleep.

Cluttered, confused, muddled, smelly. Real life is messy.

In contrast, nativities are mise-enscene static. Animals, audience, lead and character actors are clean, pristine, and motionless. Cast in their roles, there is no breath, no stench, no worry, no life.

[And this would be the spot to compare the situation of Mary and Joseph to immigrants at the US-Mexico border. But today, I’ll not. Here’s a link to what an immigration nativity scene looks like.]

Ekphrastic Poetry

An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene, or more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

Poetry Foundation,

And so there you have it! Inspired by the disconnect between the amount of money spent by Americans during the Christmas holiday season and the poverty and destitution of the original Christmas story, inspired by the disconnect between a porcelain nativity scene and a real-life stable, inspired by the disconnect between acting a part versus living the part, I give you this ekphrastic poetry mash! But isn’t all poetry a mash of sorts really? I digress.

As I haven’t yet mastered the indentation skills necessary for my poetry renditions in WordPress, a photo will have to do. This is my poetic ekphrastic nod to the Gianni Benvenuti nativity scene in porcelain which is really just a stand-in for any sanitized nativity scene.


Or not.

I haven’t yet discovered an easy way to indent a line and the next line, etc. in WordPress so this is a picture of the poem. – Viva

Photography in the style of Hilma af Klint

Look up! Look around!

I looked up. The tree top and rotunda at the confluence of the Saint Kate Hotel, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, et al. I can see where Hilma af Klint would take inspiration in the architecture, lighting, geometry and theology available to us.

The 2019 photo above was inspired by this painting by Hilma af Klint. The above photograph looks like a black & white photo compared to Hilma af Klint who used all the colors!

October 2018 – Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim Viva would have titled this “My rainbow pencil draws circles around me.”

Wishing you health, warmth, peace, love, and joy and a happy holiday season with all the colors!