Amanda Hunt

Amanda Hunt is a poet and environmental scientist from Rotorua. Her work has been published in Landfall, takahē, Mimicry, Poetry NZ, Ngā Kupu Waikato and more. She has been commended in New Zealand Poetry Society competitions and published in anthologies. In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize.

“Christmas in Bethlehem” is the name of an extravagant nativity set my mother owned, which was stored in its original packaging in the shed behind her house. The events in the poem are true (with the possible exception of the rats’ Christmas Eve service).



Christmas in bethlehem

Reluctantly downsizing,
my mother’s house
has shrunk, but
her possessions have not, 

and so, the Christmas
decorations have been
moved out to the shed.

In early December, hauling out
tinsel and sparkling lights,
we find that rats have
chewed through the nativity set 

the contents strewn about
like the aftermath
of a Palestinian airstrike.

We find the wise men
and the shepherds
two sheep, a camel and a donkey
but no Mary, Joseph or baby Jesus.

A search beneath the
barbecue and old umbrellas
yields nothing but 

cardboard shreds and
small gnawed shards of plastic
an angel crushed
beside the lawnmower.

At night, beneath the
pitched roof of the rafters,
I imagine a small altar, set with

figures of the Holy Family
a tiny matchstick manger
and the rats bowing solemnly down
on Christmas Eve.