"Let us go straight to Bethlehem . . ." — Luke 2:15 When the angel appeared, the shepherds were in the hills, the dogs circling the flocks, the men tending the fire. Then the eldest stood watch for the drowsing others under the stars. There was nothing out there they couldn't handle. They were solid, made of the ground they walked upon, easily moved by song and poem, scornful of city folk, calloused in hand, sparing of speech. The angel shot the night wide open in an instant, towered in flame before their hooded eyes, flooded their ground with a sounding brightness. (O smallest you, how will you survive the baptism of this fiery purity?) There were directions: a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. They left the sheep with the oldest one — setting deference aside — to run breathless into the night. They found the place alright, animal instinct tracking lightly and sure. Gods and angels: what did they know of such? This child's holy fire burned so deep that closed eyes saw it all entire for nights and days and memory of years.