Sunday Morning at St Edith Stein, A Dream
I don’t know when the tears began.
It was like a rain shower that starts while you are sleeping
you wake and the world is wet—
drops streaking the window, the trees, the grass, the sky,
the passing cars, and running down the insides of your dreams
to pool in the depths of your heart.
I moved in and out of sleep like
the sunlight dancing in and out from behind the clouds.
Does the sun move or do the clouds?
The light fades and then returns and the sun has
no more control than I did,
nodding in my corner of the pew.
The more I tried to clutch at wakefulness
the more it slipped my grasp.
Like trying to clutch a sunbeam.
Were my dreams flitting clouds, then, spilling tears
and snatching the light of consciousness from me?
I wanted to hold and kiss the dark hand of the woman
sitting in front of me.
In my dream her hand was a holy relic
waiting to be venerated.
I longed to press my lips against it
and wash it with my tears.
I wanted to unburden my soul and hers
from the weight of nightmares smothering
the light, the many-colored light pouring onto
the altar pouring onto her head and mine
her hands and mine — if I could only kiss her head
bathed in that holy light.
Could that thin spring light filtering through stained
glass free us from sins’ stains,
from the clanking chains that bind
us to the sins of our fathers,
from the lashes with which history flays open
our selves to the bones, from the nooses that strangle
stillborn friendship before it can open its eyes and stretch
before it can reach out a fragile newborn hand?
Our tired, wounded eyes blink back against the light—
light filtered through the red of too much blood shed
which no amount of tears can wash away.
An ocean would be stained by that tide that cries out—
the very earth and stones calling— for vengeance.
Nor can this feeble flood of grief and love
roll away the crushing stones that lock us in our solitary tombs.
The salt of all my tears cannot console
the tearless mothers who could not hold their children and
who had no words of comfort for them
whose dark fears were a millstone crushing out love;
only bitter vinegar ever oozed from that cruel press.
This brine cannot quench the thirst yearning
for the milk of human caress and for fingers twining
in the curl of your hair.
What you are— this skin, this hair, this body— is holy
This beautiful black brown coffee chocolate caramel cocoa bitter stout
which men have hated and reviled,
your hand pressing mine in a formal sign—
so soft and warm in my hand— the sign of peace—
may its slow dripping into your heart
in the notes of an old familiar hymn burrowing for shelter
fill the calvaries of your wounds.
My ‘peace’ cannot convey the tears in my heart’s well
And the love spilling out in dreamlike waves,
My haunting nighttime fears, my dreams of
breath slipping away in the dark
of never again holding that small body against mine
while I sleep. Nightmares of wandering strange houses
where there is no room for us to sleep
of food I cannot feast on
of marble stairs barred, blocked, keeping me from my sleeping child.
As I whispered quietly into the
little seashell ear of the small lamb curling up next to me
preparing to push off her little coracle
for the far shores of dreamland.
We are mothers together standing on that terrible shore
and watching our children sail into the deep
fearing we will never see them again.
If I tried to pour out my dreams to you,
stranger ladies who surround me, dark sisters,
would you welcome me into an embrace
like a fist sinking into a ball of dough as the baker
punches and punches
her hand disappearing and reappearing from the
midst of the soft give and take of dough?
I don’t know how I stopped crying long enough
to smile in your eyes and how I dared to greet you
as a sister— do you know how much I long
to give that word life, O stranger who are
dearer to me than words can say?
But the bells call me back from dark dreams into
Reality where the light streams into the sanctuary
lapping the altar’s white lace
where dark hands hold a white sun,
raising it so that its light, stronger than a thousand suns—
Oh merciful light! — breaks through the clouds of dreams—
Where the voice that learned its lilt
on a Caribbean island from descendants of slaves
(who during that dark passage could never
dream of this Miracle, these sacred hands made an alter-Christ)
wakes the sleepers from nightmares
calls us to leave our tombs and eat
the banquet of the slain one
whose wounds weep the blood that fills our own wounds
to overflowing and heals them with its gentle kiss of peace
that surpasses all understanding.