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Feast of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), 2012

 

Yesterday I went to prison

To Death Row

To watch a film about Oscar Romero

Which featured rape

And the murder of innocents

By those on the political Right

And by those

On the political Left

In 1970’s El Salvador

And sitting all around me

Were men: waiting

To be executed

Charged with crimes

Of rape

And murder

Some possibly guilty

Some most possibly innocent

 

I know these men

As much as anyone can know anyone

As much as anyone allows any other to know

I choose to not know these men tied to their past

I know these men only in the present

Each of them is willing to share

And so: to walk

To sit

To listen

To talk

With these men

Is not easy at all

For me

If I be honest

But

I would not exchange my time

With them

For the world

 

For in the walking

And the colloquy

I am called by the Christ

I meet each time

In the gospels

To meet the Christ

I am to find each time

In every other

I am called

Simply

To be

Outside

My world, the world

And my prejudice

And its prejudices

And my convention

And its conventions

And to do nothing more

Than to try

To light a lamp

And bring His light

Into the darkness

 

And sometimes

I think I can see the fruit

Of such a simple-sounding

Task

And often

I feel overwhelmed

By the dark

But deep down inside

My heart or my head

When I shut up and I stop

I can sense

In the silence remaining

That

I am never

Never really

Alone

 

And one of the men

Who I hadn’t seen since

I left for Congo

He came up to me

And said he had to see me

Before anything

Before the movie

And he: had said

He once thought

I was bigheaded

And he: used to launch

Right into rough

Soliloquy

In group situations

Without notice or

Consideration

But over time

Through talking

Through correspondence

We both moved beyond

We became friends

And he would show me his photo albums

Of friends

Of time spent outside

This place

Photos from

Leavenworth

And other such

Institutions

 

And now we sat down

And he showed me his test results

Advancing cancer

Since I left for Africa

And he said he might

Be going back to

Some other state

I don’t know why

 

But then

He showed me pictures

Old and black and white

Photocopied on

Sheets of 8 ½ x 11

Images from the 1940’s and

1950’s

 

Of a world gone

For good

 

Of his brother who died

Later, as a young man,

In a hotel room, cause

Unknown

 

And of adults

People his mother left him with

People he was later kidnapped from

People he only now found out

Were his mother’s people

His family

 

For 69 years, he thought

She had dumped him at strangers

That she had not loved him at all

 

For 69 years, he had been wrong

And had based so much

On his life and his world

On this

 

The man who kidnapped him

Filled him with lies

 

And now he knew

And he showed me finally

At the end

Her picture

She had to leave

She had to move far away

To stop the abuse

And she had loved him

And she had intended to leave him

Safe, with family

And she had moved to California

 

She was beautiful

 

And he cried

 

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