Sister asked for castanets.
I brought a tambourine.
“I was raised in Columbia,” she explained.
“My grandfather was from Spain.
He taught me to play the castanets.”
Together we rehearsed the songs
that would stitch together
the various scenes
of the Christmas pageant.

The innkeepers stood solemnly behind
painted cardboard doors.
Window cut-outs framed their faces
as they explained: “No room at the inn.”
Yet all three of them,
gathered here at the Shelter,
knew what it is to be homeless.
One offered a stable.

Some sheep stood on two legs,
and some on all fours,
but all clearly recognizable
by paper masks and hilarious bleating.
The shepherds were a bit tipsy,
most likely not too dissimilar
from the shepherds on that holy night.
The drummer boy passed out
just before the play started,
face down on the sidewalk,
but Sister revived him
with a concoction of milk and egg.
He carried and played the brilliant blue
cardboard drum that he had made.

Sister asked for castanets.
I brought a tambourine.
“Mary will stand here and hold baby Jesus
while we sing the Magnificat.
Do you know the tune?” she asked
as she hummed. I did not know the tune.
“Mary will dance as we sing,” she said.
Her hands cradled castanets we could not see.
Then she kicked up her heels and danced.

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