Thursday, August 9, 2012

Benedictions To Go: Inspirations and Poems

In yesterday's post, I wrote:  "Some weeks, I have a vision of a church with a drive-through window, where I could get an emergency Eucharist, some strength for the journey, and maybe a blessing."

I didn't dream up that vision yesterday.  No, it stems from a time when I was helping my former student who had become a friend.  Her mother's cancer had moved to her brain, and she found herself her mother's caretaker.  My friend was in her mid-20's, and she'd already lost her father--and then, bam, her mother's cancer reappears.

That summer, I drove them to some of their appointments, the ones that required driving through Miami morning rush hour.  I stayed and then we drove back through the afternoon rush hour.  I watched my young friend trying to navigate her way through the medical mazes.  My heart broke so many times.

I remember one time looking at a wall and realizing that I was looking at a crucifix.  As they day progressed, I realized that every room had one, which made sense, once I figured out that we were at a Catholic hospital and medical complex.  At first, I recoiled.  As the day progressed, I found the constant crucifixes to be a comfort.  The crucifix, with its constant reminder of Christ's agony, reassured me of the promise of Easter:  death seems to win, but Christ's resurrection assures us that death doesn't have the final answer.

I wrote several poems out of that experience.  Here's one that appeared in Referential


After a long day at the hospital--
tests performed on her mother, tests that leave
her mother radioactive--the woman heads
towards school and spends
her evening with her English impaired
students. She struggles
to help them learn the rules
of grammar that they should have learned
years ago. The more advanced students wrestle
their sentences into paragraphs and shape
essays out of chaos.

She drives home late, stinking
of stale hospital air and close
classrooms. She notices the dark
spire of a neighborhood church, the garish
neon of surrounding fast
food dives and a strip joint.

She wishes the church
had a drive through. Short
of time and shorn of sleep,
she could use a benediction
to go. She longs for the celestial
bath that could strip
away her earthly grime, leave
her pure and prepared
for the next day's struggles.

Instead she returns to her snug
cottage of a condo. She submits
to a quick shower while tea steeps
in the pot that she crafted in a different life.
She cuts some coconut bread
left by a concerned friend. With tea
and bread, ensconced in a comforter,
she reads the Psalms and waits
the night watch, willing sleep to come.

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