King’s College Carols heard many times before.
Work done, damp dusk, drive home on empty roads.
Life drawing in, back, to Bethlehem.

Time out of time.

I tried to paint it once. Mary and Joseph
Backpacking east along the 158.
Signpost right to refuge, House of Bread.

Time before time.

Mood uncaptured. Flat fields. Bare trees. Winter sky.
Tarmac’s stretch to distant dim seen wolds.
Anoraks’ bright splash, defiant hope.
Time that was time.

This is not the first Christmas overtaken by
Events beyond control. Nineteen eighteen.
Empty chairs, post-war, post pandemic

Time repeats time.

Still they sing. Half willing, our masked hearts echo,
though faintly after months of pain and grief.
Reason says “absurd”. Faith whispers “hope”.

Time after time.