Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Haitian Advent

Advent has a way of sneaking up on me.  Even with the best intentions and resolutions to remember and to celebrate the season, I always miss the first Sunday.  This year is no exception.  We spent Thanksgiving weekend with friends in the lovely beach village of Port Salut, cut off from the internet but not really minding.  Waterfalls, waves, friends, kittens and a Thanksgiving feast were plenty to delight and occupy us.  It wasn’t until Sunday night, when we got back and I found my way on to my sister’s blog that I realized it was already upon us—Advent.  The lovely season of passionate waiting, expectancy, and preparation had come to us again.

This morning in my time of prayer and meditation, I came across a fitting poem for Advent, below, by Michael Moynahan, SJ.  It was tucked away in Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits, a little book edited by Michael Harter, SJ, which I have been toting around with me since college.  Reading the poem I found myself imagining the classic Christmas scene unfolding not in Bethlehem, but in the rugged Haitian countryside that we had just spent hours driving through.  The first few lines especially were not too farfetched, with “a long and dusty ride” and “a steep and winding road weaves serpentine up the side of mountains.”  Nor was the idea of a pregnant woman being transported by donkey—still a popular way to navigate dirt paths and rough rural terrain. 

But, there was more to this poem that seemed to come to life in a different way on a Haitian backdrop.  Something about it made more sense to me than it had previously.  Because here, it is not hard to imagine a young girl searching for a safe place to birth a child—it happens all the time.  It’s not hard to imagine a door being slammed in the face of a poor man seeking shelter—that, too, happens all the time.  It’s also not hard to imagine Mary’s gentle faith that God will provide—this kind of faith and dependence also happen all the time.  And, still to my surprise and delight, it’s not hard to imagine God’s whimsical and loving providence for those who depend on him—it astonishes me, but this, too, happens all the time.  And truly, as Mary exclaims in the last line, it is magnificent.

In the Out House

by Michael Moyahan, SJ

It’s been a long,
dusty ride.
A steep and winding road
weaves serpentine
up the side of mountains.
They race the sun
with prospects of a new head to tax,
albeit a small one,
an impending certainty.
Sky and mother
are visual proof.

They reach the city
but full of hope.
The husband,
mistaken on occasion
for her father,
fails to act his age
and dashes toward
a door about to close.

“Excuse me.
Could you please give us a room for the night?
Some place to lay our heads?”

“Can’t you read, buster?
We’re all filled up.”

“I understand. 
It’s my wife.
She’s about to have her first child.”

“That’s not my problem.”

“He’s not a problem. 
He’s a fact
of life.”

“Open your ears, buddy,
because I’m only
gonna say this once.
We ain’t got no room.
So scram!”

“I understand”
is drowned
by the sound of a
slammed door.

Three times he will try
to find them lodging.
And with each failure
feel less capable
of caring for his wife
and that life within her
wanting out.

“It doesn’t look good.
All their rooms are taken.”

“Don’t worry.
God will provide.”

And all the time thinking:
“That’s what I’m afraid of.
They’re sorry
but they’re full.
It’s looking bleak.”

“God will give us
what we need.”
He shakes his head.
She believes this
and it comforts him a little.

The third stop
looking like a
distant bleak relation
of the previous two.

Until the owner’s wife
spies the young girl wince
from movement she understands
all too well.

“You can have
the place out back.
It isn’t much
but it will be a roof
over your heads.
There’s fresh hay thrown.
The animals won’t bother you
and the child will be warm.
I’ll get some rags and water.
Go on now,
the mother
and baby
are waiting.”

the young girl’s face


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