I’ve come by grace to this sacred time
I call the moment at hand.
I celebrate at the kitchen sink,
this altar, the yes of resurrection
of promise of clean dishes and glasses
raised up out of scum and residue
rinsed under water hot and flowing.
Again tonight I give the altar call:
Clear the table.
Wipe these dishes.
Come on, you kids:
Let’s get this show on the road.
This child, this Yemenite child
more than half-starved,
his body carved of bone
and swollen belly
this Yemenite child has a name––
Mohannad Ali. He lies on a pallet,
a hospital bed, waiting to die
or live. (He’s only five.)
His face bisected by light and shadow,
his dark eyes look out into mine
from the photo I keep on my desk
to remember him.
Consider humus, that gift to the garden,
of rot. Layers and layers of life lived
of hurt and healing God knows
and presses down upon, compacting soil
and all matter, factored in to fertilizer
that grows the soul, making a way
for humility in place of arrogance.
Death before life is axiomatic; only
hear what Jesus said: that a grain
of wheat must fall to the ground before
it can ever give life; be gathered, threshed
and ground to flour, to make bread, to be
broken and fed to all for the sake of God,
who is Source of life, of rot, of humus,
that gift to the garden. Consider.
no birthday I know of, no anniversary,
temperature working up to hot
grass and gardens brown with drought––
on this day the temple curtain is rent
and I return to the throne of my life
after an absence of ten years from the day that I
as a non-Jew, who had known the facts
of Holocaust but never felt them, read poems
by those who did feel them, read poems written
by those who died, and by those who survived
the horror to pass on the truth of that shadow
that dogs the light.
I went underground that first day, not knowing
why I wept, and continuing to read the poems
until it became clear: I was in the bone house
of God, grieving with him for his own children.
Three weeks of weeping for his chosen ones,
three weeks of filling an underground lake
with tears. Three weeks of remembering day by
day the lives caught in the agony of those poems.
I never returned until today, had not even known
I was still missing, still there, deep in the earth;
a silver thread in my hand had kept me connected.
I know all this through no book,
except the book of my listening life
opened to page one, where it newly begins.
Glory to God in the highest
in the lowest, the basest, and
in the beautiful, Glory to God.
All of it, all of it, the high, the low
and in the middle, where we meet
to talk in tones detectable only
to Spirit who deeply resides
in each crumb of creation, human
or otherwise, no less, no more
beautiful to me, Creator of all
of life, the Source, I care for
with supernal love, tender and
fierce. At the same time, I Am
writing history with my left hand,
and you are the ink on the page.
She emerged from the forest, with a babe of six months
at her hip, followed by a camouflage-clad man who
claimed to be her husband––a Boko Haram investee,
a new St. Joseph for this holy family, who disappeared
from the news and pictures, after the first day.
Meanwhile his wife, a teenaged girl like Mary, who
was the Prima Madonna, was cleaned up, fed
and seated beside the President of Nigeria, who
claimed the military––government sponsored––
was responsible for freeing this first of the girls
stolen from Chibok two years ago. But no. It was
this latter-day Joseph, concerned for the survival
of the girl and her child, who put his life on the line
for them when he emerged from the forest behind her.
In her introduction to Cries of the Spirit, A Celebration of Women’s Spirituality, published in 1991 by Beacon Press, Marilyn Sewell wrote:
Who can order the Holy? It is like a rain forest, dripping, lush, fecund, wild. We enter its abundance at our peril, for here we are called to the wholeness for which we long, but which requires all we are and can hope to be.