READING JON SOBRINO'S LETTERS TO IGNACIO ELLACURÍA
IN YAKIMA WHILE BACHELOR BUTTONS BLOOM SIX MONTHS
AFTER RETURNING FROM A MONTH WITH THE MARTYRS
Because roses have been fed with compost tea
made from kitchen scraps, the surface root system
of Bachelor Buttons reaches into rose beds
creating a field of wild flowers becoming
a desert landscape. The non-gardener decision
to let Bachelor Buttons go and grow, thriving, even if they eclipsed
the beauty of the rose, is a decision made by flowers themselves.
The martyrs live! They want us alive, too. The fact of a meal
in one banquet hall. Ellacu—
no intimacy could be greater—
the sound of Sobrino's voice comes off the page
as the ears of Ellacuría perk up,
and one can see his head turn, the president
of the university listening to his friend.
But inside the wonder of intimacy and truth,
it is not Sobrino who speaks, but his friend:
Estados Unidos está mucho peor que América Latina,
porque Estados Unidos tiene una solución,
pero es mala solución...en América Latina
no hay soluciones. Better to have no solutions
than bad ones. Some call El Salvador the Holy Land.
Pilgrims read Sobrino's letters to Ellacuría
in the rose garden at the University
where students keep stories alive
with teachers and caretakers, opening eyes
for visitors—those who would see.
Dios de los pobres, el de Jesús.
Promises get made in the garden
that cannot be kept in the Empire.
No vuelvas, the bishop says in Dosteovsky.
No vuelvas, Sobrino reminds himself,
talking to his friend crucified with the poor,
Ellacuría still calling for the crucified
to be taken down from the cross. Dosteovsky's
bishop tells Jesus his return isn't necessary,
We've got it all worked out here, don't come back.
Dressed in the sacred and opulent
one cannot feel the uranium and oil
that made the tight fabric of our rich clothes.
Sobrino gives the world fifteen letters,
but only fifteen. Readers in the rose garden
are left to write their own to see what happens next.
One walks into a garden enticed by beauty.
Bees find a way to Bachelor Buttons
bees themselves part of a diaspora they can't see,
dependent on the makers of pesticides.
Nothing is finished by readers carrying
Sobrino's letters into any garden.
Shade grown coffee from the mountains of Salvador
intoxicates while serving as medicine.
Liberty connects to joy and joy is a gift from God.
Libertad es vencer las ataduras de la historia,
el miedo, el egoismo. Tied to the story
of the past, the pilgrim sits with coffee
surrounded by wild flowers buzzing.
9 June 2010
MINISTRY IN THE SCREEN DOOR—
A LETTER TO DEAN BRACKLEY, S.J.
ONE OF THE VOICES SEARCHING REALITY
Should I know you? the priest asks, from behind the screen door.
Waiting for him to open to door to hand him
the jelly and poster from the martyrs, he asks again,
Should I know you? ¿Quién es mi prójimo?
This is the Minority Report from Yakima, Dean Brackley,
saying thanks for connecting the Bronx
to Puerto Rico and El Salvador—The poster
from the 20th Anniversary of the martyrs at UCA,
Todos los mártires y todas las victimas viven hoy
y nos llaman a la liberación. Victims this summer
include the plant and animal nations in the Gulf of Mexico.
To access, or leave, the light-filled tomb with the open door,
one must cross through barbed wire, but someone,
a coyote maybe? has lowered one strand of wire,
bending and hanging it on the lower one,
making passage possible. A quotation from Ellacuría:
Liberación de lo que pueda estimarse como oppresión
injusta de la plenitude y de la dignidad humana; liberación
de toda forma de injusticia; liberación del hambre,
la enfermedad, la ignorancia, el desamparo; liberación
de las necesidades falsas, impuestas por una sociedad de consumo.
Ellcuría and the crucified ones. Take them down from the crosses.
Ask them what they need. They're calling to us now.
I'm part of the North Dakota diaspora.
My family thrown out of Dakota before the first wave.
I'm my mother's biographer. Mi mamá
es verdadera campesina del estado de dakota norte.
I'm a Vietnam vet, too. Add that to my résumé.
When I came home I found the prophets through Heschel
but couldn't get to Jesus. I fell in with Vatican II Catholics
and found Fr. Stanley Marrow, S.J., your brother,
Arab, a bit of an exiled prophet himself,
who taught me Rudolf Bultmann from my own tradition,
guaranteeing me freedom and tears in the pew
that took 30 years to embrace. Stanley
used to huff and puff from his podium:
Those of you who've made your vows think it's such
a wonderful thing, that Jesus spent three days
dying on a cross for you. There are those
among you who've spent thirty years
on that cross, and you don't know their names.
Stanley loved Lutheran theologians
my own tradition still won't touch—
Bultmann threatens to turn it all into metaphor—
the big fear. I've spent my life trying to acknowledge
these gifts from Fr. Marrow. Still finding them,
I won't live long enough to outline the narrative.
Brother David Steindl-Rast is the monk
who teaches me to say thanks—
companion of Tom Merton.
Stanley rolled away every stone of certainty.
He turned questions into Easter,
boiling it down to this:
We are not inferior.
Our response to what we've been given is all.
Tattoed again—I've not run into the priest who asked
if he should know me. I don't know
if he tried the jelly or hung the poster.
The poster is almost too light to carry.
We carried the jelly, subversive like poems,
in our luggage, and did not declare it
in customs, coming into the country.
When Mary left Yakima, she carried jelly
in her bag and it never made the plane.
It's kindergarten graduation day.
As I bring the cake into my daughter's classroom
I'm stunned by the beauty of the children,
boys in white guayaberas, girls in black dresses.
Sí podemos. Sí queremos, y por su puesto,
sí tenemos. Buenos dias guapos y guapas.
These kids, poster children of liberation.
8 June 2010
IN THE SMALL HOURS OF WILD LAUGHTER
Forgive me for helping you understand
that you're not made of words alone.
Ernesto Cardenal says Roque Dalton
was always laughing, laughing at the Jesuits
in whose schools he lost his faith,
telling fantastic stories of El Salvador,
true stories with nothing made up.
Cardenal says Dalton's commitment
to the Revolution was like a marriage contract.
It wasn't a government bullet killed him in 1975.
He made everybody mad.
Cuba, Moscow, Mexico, La Casa de las Americas,
valedictorian,—Dalton claiming patrimony
from the Dalton gang—bank robbers
relocated on a plantation with stolen gold,
returns to El Salvador clandestingly
in the summer of 65 and finds himself in prison.
An earthquake breaks open the jail.
He joins the Guatemalan Guerilla Army of the Poor.
Plastic surgery makes him anonymous.
He invents an army of clandestine poets to tell his story.
He names names. My favorite is the one
where he talks about the president of his country,
the president of El Salvador. Everything's possible
in a country like mine, Dalton says, Anything at all.
Today the president of my country
is Colonel Fidel Sánchez Hernández—Today.
Today he's the president. But, General Somoza,
the President of Nicaragua, is also President.
And, General Stroessner, Paresident of Paraguay,
is also, just a little bit, the President of El Salvador,
but less than the President of Honduras.
And finally, the President of the United States,
yes, he is more President
than the President of my country.
Cross and belong to us all, Roque Dalton.
Laughter and anger make us bold.
April 25, 2005
BIRD'S NEST HERE, HOW TO SAY
ebrio/a: ciego o dominado por un
sentimiento o por una pasion fuertes:
El poeta, ebrio de amor,
compuso extraordinarios poemas.
Clave: diccionario de uso del español actual
Poet's are God's drunks.
Cuesta a llegar
a esta edad como nosotros.
The lake is an inheritance
the government wants to privatize.
The lake can be a menace too.
It is a wall of water.
The cause, the caller, the call itself
Poor land, poor farming.
Sweatshops outside the community—
Look for the perfect moment
in the day, and ask your question.
Ayer memorias, mañana justicia.
We'll be gone.
You will never leave.
The work here is finding wood.
El corrido de Rutilio Grande.
Questions for Jon Sobrino.
A poem for Marvin.
Sal y luz.
Rutilio Grande tuvo sal y luz.
He spoke with salt and light.
A day in the life from all over.
Él predicaba la palabra.
He enjoyed himself.
Music comes from next door.
Purple banner on white table cloth.
We have a house
beside a field of sugarcane
at the table of creation.
They made this one-way street.
It was news to me.
The government said we had water.
Show me the faucets.
We were on the other side
of the volcano.
Walk the trail of the combatants.
Houses of adobe.
Chairs of blue plastic.
April 19, 2006