No vacancy at the inn (or anywhere else in Australia)



Selected poems


No vacancy at the inn
(or anywhere else in Australia)

Please god of the fit and strong,
forbid we should become
'the un-lucky country'.
Help us to conjure the nerve
to say —
There is no room for you
here in Australia.
No vacancies. All full up.

You will be turned away
while you are trying
to give your family respite
from poverty or war.

We have no room for you.
We are using our space
for shops.
And Christmas trees.
In Sydney one tree is 69 feet tall!
As high as a six storey apartment block.

The (artificial) trees look just lovely -
lights illuminating the branches
weighted with synthetic snow.
(The only snow we could find).
Our taxes at work
inspiring us to get in the spirit
of good will and generosity.
If only you could see everyone
when Christmas day arrives.
The unwrapping of papered gifts,
pried open with scissors
pulled from their plastic wombs —
new technology.

The custom is
we sort-of kiss and hug each other.
(after all, it is only once a year).

Where was I? …
Yes, praying
to the god of the fit and strong.


Joseph's story

As a carpenter, I am used to the outdoors —
the smells of animals and hay.
I am drawn to rough and cluttered sheds.
I shape and whittle undressed wood
until smooth as newborn skin.

I was in Bethlehem to register for taxes.
Mary wanted to come with me
though it seemed unwise.
That's how I became the 'midwife'.
A not-yet-husband, teary and helping
to bring our baby into the world
into an environment I love.

There are stories told but
for all I know, the whole world
might have been a choir.
I wouldn't have heard them —
I sobbed so much.


Hope knows what

There needed to be three of them.
One astronomer is surely not wise enough
to know if a new light is a hoax or star,

so they conferred, packed supplies, set off
— there was not a lot to lose —
only three sore backsides on three trusty camels,

a few homeless nights for the sake of hope-knows-what,
aching necks straining to see a pathway sparkle through
the darkest moonless blue.

Perhaps the dubious star might slow and stop
before their sandclogged eyes robbed their adventure.
And surely enough when they perceived the star

as piercing arcs of light intensely white and bright,
the scientists hearts leapt in sweet anticipation.
They found beneath the beaming star the most unlikely thing.


Marlene MarburgMarlene Marburg PhD is a spiritual director and formator at Kardia Formation in Melbourne, Australia. Her latest collection of poetry Grace Undone: Encounter is available through

Topic tags: poetry, Marlene Marburg



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Existing comments

Getting to the heart and soul of the season. Words to ponder, inspire and urge, Marlene. Thank you
vivien | 06 December 2016

Very beautiful reflections Marlene, to be pondered and imagined.
Helen H | 06 December 2016

Thanks Marlene, you have the ability to ground us in our broken humanity so vividly, it makes me even more aware of the awesome gift of hope this season brings.
Name Rachel | 06 December 2016

Great work, Marlene! I particularly liked No Vacancy.
Jean Sietzema-Dickson | 06 December 2016

“(or anywhere else in Australia)” Marburg is also the name of a town in a country run by the humane daughter of a Lutheran pastor, who was raised in a communist nation under conditions of religious discrimination, the country whose welfare she now stewards being without the luxury of really being girt by sea, seas being less porous borders than land, and who has discovered that reality can impose exorbitant costs on being humane. Would the humane daughter, upon reading this poem, be appreciative of “(or anywhere else in Australia)” as conceding (more or less) that what appear to be high universalist values are often conditional? Can one speak truth to poetry without conceding such?
Roy Chen Yee | 08 December 2016


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