Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Two Poems from Bilgrimage Readers Scott Lentine and Molly Roach: People of God Dreaming Dreams

One of the delights of my experience as a blogger in the past few years is that readers of my blog occasionally contact me to send things they've written--books, essays, poems. These invariably introduce me to fascinating literary statements I'd probably have missed otherwise, and they lay the groundwork for new relationships-at-a-distance that have come to mean a great deal to me. Today I'd like to share two poems that have come my way from readers in the recent past.

Scott Lentine, a young man in Massachusetts living with autism (and who has a background in religious studies), contacted me some months ago to share his poetry. I read his poems with great interest, in part, because the world of autism is somewhat distant from any worlds I've inhabited up to now, though I've known a number of parents of autistic children, and Scott's poetry comes to those who read it as a cri de coeur from that world. It comes as a powerful plea to be understood as a human being, to be accepted and loved as a human being among other human beings.

I share that same heartfelt desire, as I imagine readers of this blog do, and so I have been deeply moved by the poems Scott has shared with me, articulating his experience as an autistic man struggling to find a place in the world in which he is loved, accepted, treated as an equal member of the human community.

Recently, Scott emailed again to tell me he has started a blog. I'd like to recommend Scott's valuable blog site to readers. Here, he introduces himself and his blog, and at this link (and here), he shares a number of poems he has written, along with some resources for understanding autism. Here's one of those poems, entitled "Can't You See":

Can’t you see 
I just want to have a friend 
Can’t you see 
I need the same connections in the end 
Can’t you see 
I want a good job 
Can’t you see 
I need to have stability and dependence and part of the general mob 
Can’t you see 
I want to be independent on my own 
Can’t you see 
I want to be able to have my own home 
Can’t you see 
I want the same things as everyone else 
Can’t you see 
I want to be appreciated for myself.

And more riches: in the past several days, Molly (Mary Katherine) Roach, another esteemed reader of Bilgrimage, has emailed me with a poem she wrote in 2011 as the Catholic bishops of Washington state gathered for their annual meeting.  Molly's poem is entitled "The Reckoning Approaches: a poem for the Roman Church," and she has kindly allowed me to publish it here:

Iron-mouthed anguish moves us
      past seeing into knowing
     bottomless disregard for
The joyful, intricate, endless struggle
     to gain what is good: our mission. 
Dread renders us silent in
     the un-nameable discord.
We stand stock-still
     in its face
     calling it impasse. 
Looking backwards we find
     its threads flashing
     in and out of the
     past’s efforts
Beaten down like a fire
Trenches dug against it.
Looking forward we see 
     bitter judgments and bankruptcy
     and money the least of it.
O God of my heart!
What is to be done? 
Intervention: what to expect. 
Blasé inattention
     laced with cynical impatience
To yet one more item
     to be gotten through
And if we persevere
     if our nerve doesn’t fail
     then may come
     a flutter of recognition:
     something is being asked here
 Snarling growls will follow
     and we must steel
     ourselves against
     the arguments of devotion
     and good faith
     that fill the air
And secure ourselves to
  the backbone of hope
while denial and disbelief demand
     “Don’t you know who we are?!”
The siren song of
celebrity and self-importance
calling in favors, defending disgrace
postponing the reckoning. 
Our efforts to support their dignity
     exhausted by their mystifying                                            
It is past time to point toward
     the fearful mire
     of half-truths and lies
     the fruit by which
     they are known. 
The truth will set us free.

As I read these poems, a thought that occurs to me immediately: a lot of us are dreaming dreams these days, as the future of a powerful religious institution to which many of us belong hangs in the balance. Many of us have long felt that our dreams are ignored, even ridiculed.

But if the Spirit is anywhere in our church and the world in which we live, the Spirit is present through dreams. Through poems. Through cries of the human heart for a more humane world. Through the longing of sons and daughters and brothers and sisters for a table with bread enough for all of us.

Our Catholic leaders may well continue to betray our hopes, and they may continue trampling down our dreams. But this will not stop the dreaming.

The graphic: angels climbing Jacob's ladder as Jacob dreams, from the west front of Bath Abbey (the file is at Wikimedia Commons).

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