Tuesday, June 22, 2010

3 poems from the border...

i'm a little more raw than expected and not able to completely explain my experience yet. but i did have 3 spoken word pieces that came out of my time in Arizona and I thought I'd share 2 of them.
-hands full of baptism-

the only radio stations you get
this deep in the desert
play Christian & ranchera music, respectively.
floating through the airwaves are stories of redemption
& love,
both heavenly & earthly.
but only half of them make any sense to me.

sleeping in a desert that's always moving,
yet always quiet,
i only understand half the stories anyways.
the barriers here are unintelligible.
this great nation has woven intricate borders
between us
made of language & idealogy & money & hate
& sealed with barbed wire & promises.
it catches at your heart & keeps you stuck,
like some man-made desert plant
that needs ugly soil to grow.

give me the honest desert,
the space between borders,
where time slips away
& you're not entirely sure
who you are
where you've come from.
i want to leave
the land of beer & honey
for a space
where water baptizes survivors & victims alike
& where we remember our dead
in places as everlasting as mountains,
& just as beautiful.

let us not run from the harshness.
let us bleach our souls in the desert sun
until our ragged hearts are clean.
let us walk without stopping
into a land which doesn't belong to us alone
but which contains our ancestors
our friends
our enemies
our future,
a land where the sun beats down
on the just & unjust.
let us step out of the shadows
with dirty faces,
bleached hearts,
& hands full of baptism.

stepping out into the harsh light of truth,
we look like a busted-up army of seekers.
nobody knows we've got a map on our body
that says where we are & where we're headed together.
all we have to do is face the rising sun
to find our brothers & sisters
& ignore every border we see.
from there, we will tell our stories into the air,
until they form a song all their own,
more beautiful than any airwaves could capture,
& more lasting.

-what i can say when i don't speak your language-

here's a list of things i can say in Spanish:
i'm sorry,
ice cream,

compared to the way words trip off my tongue,
these confines are immense
& reduce me to child-like sentences
& chaplin-esque hand gestures.

but when i look again,
i can say a lot
of what i to tell you,
stuck as you are,
between your world & mine.
i can say:
"i'm sorry."
"your heart is right where you left it."
"feed your revolution with love & food & mercy & water
& leave everything else to la migra.
they're bound to take it anyways."

looking at it that way,
it's all the vocabulary i'll ever need.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

electronic kairos

tonight i was trying to prepare something for the Kairos reflection tonight. while it ultimately devolved into a much more enjoyable night of feeding friends and chatting, i was glad for the time to reflect on the intersection of "ordinary" time and storytelling. it's been coalescing in my mind, as we head into Ordinary Time, that within all the work we do and the issues we address, story can sometimes get lost under fact and hyperbole and official excuses.

for example, i have been thinking, as i am sure many have, about the situation in Gaza. not only was there the needless deaths of those trying to get into Gaza with humanitarian aid, but there have been reported air raids into Gaza as well. All of these things are massively horrifying, but i found myself most moved and saddened and convicted by the first-person stories of what happened on the Freedom Flotilla. The first-person stories of what it was like on the boat contained some incredibly touching moments. It can be found here. those stories, while not eclipsing the broad picture of facts and strategies and solutions, throw into high relief the real cost of doing nothing. these people, with names and faces and a story to tell, narrowly avoided losing their lives. others didn't. thinking of these people - the ones who lived and the ones who died - moves me more than facts. i feel like that must be true for more than me.

in planning for the night, i found this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, which also helped me realize the beautiful power of story and the ordinary, even in the face of violence and oppression.

The Words Under the Words
(for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem)
-Naomi Shihab Nye

My grandmother's hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat's new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I woke from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.

My grandmother's days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to it read again and again
in the dim evening light.

My grandmother's voice says nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send-our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband's coat,
the ones she had loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.

My grandmother's eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of His name.
"Answer, if you hear the words under the words -
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones."

In this "ordinary" time, I'm committing to finding the story in the ordinary. This Sunday, we'll here again the very extraordinary way that our Savior performs the ordinary act of feeding people. There was a story there, but there's a story every time we feed people who need it. There are stories in the ordinary work we do. i want to commit to finding those stories, collecting them, and bringing them as presents to the One Who Writes Our Stories.