Category Archives: at risk

Child Bride

I asked her if she loved him. She said yes,

Her nut-brown hands clasped in her lap

Hands that instead of scratching sums and wiping

Chalkboards of the second-grade classroom

Would soon be cradling sons and daughters and

Threading flowers to sell at the intersection

On smoggy March days

 

She asked me if I had someone. I said no,

But I didn’t tell her of the cloud of pain that

Hovered over me or the knife that still pricked my heart

She wouldn’t understand why anyone would put

A knife into their own heart

 

I wondered if she knew what love was. But I didn’t ask,

She felt sorry for me that at 29, more than twice as old as her

I did not yet know love as she did

(What she did not know was that I knew love,

But only the kind you let go

Even if it meant turning the point of the knife)

 

We wondered what the other was thinking. But we didn’t ask,

The table and a world between us,

The dirt floor swept clean

Open windows, a motorbike droning somewhere,

Smoke from a fire wafting through the room

Time frozen

Only a smudge caught in the air

 

January 28, 2020

Shoes

This past semester I took one of my favorite classes ever, Intercultural Communication. Some of the themes we studied in the first part of the semester were communication, identity, and culture; later we delved into issues such as child soldiers, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child marriage, and genocide. As a part of the class, we each came up with a creative project or reflection on what we had learned, since a lot of the material was heavy and dark. Since I love poetry, I took the chance to come up with my own spoken word poetry piece and performed it. I pulled from the theme of identity that we had studied in the first half and combined it with some of the issues of the second half, using the metaphor of shoes to describe how we can empathize with the oppressed. Below is the poem that I wrote and performed as spoken word. (photo credit above: pixabay.com)

 

You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their feet.

But you can never really know a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.

 

My father’s boots were tall and strong

Like him

Made to stride through the mud to spread straw for cows on cold winter mornings

Or through tall prairie grasses to hunt for the stray calf lost in the wheatgrass

On sunny spring mornings when the swallow swooped over dewy meadows

 

My mother’s shoes were tiny and timid

Like her

Black and trimmed with tucked-in edges that she wore for Sunday church

Her shoes fit in with all the other women’s shoes

When lined in a row when sitting on the backless benches

Except hers couldn’t touch the floor

 

My ancestor’s shoes were rough and rugged

Like them

They trod the hill paths of Germany

Slipping through the forests silently, stealthily

Stealing through the starlight to meet in caves

By underground rivers in the dead of night to be rebaptized–

Radicals and reformers.

Their shoes took them to the courts of Zurich, preaching and persuading

And some to their deaths

To burning at stake, drowning in the Lammat River

 

My ancestor’s shoes carried them onto boats

Fleeing on boats coming across wide, wild waters

Where they became a band of bewildered immigrants

In a nation and a tongue not their own

The words they spoke became heavy on their Swiss German tongues

And their fear of facing the fires again

Closed their mouths;

The firebrands and reformers became the silent in the land

Die Stille im Land.

 

Their shoes changed from strong mountain shoes

And religious rebel shoes

To quiet and capable shoes

Plowing the land and planting corn,

Until the East became too crowded

Then they pulled on their traveling shoes,

Their plain pioneer shoes

Boarded wagons and trains and boats

And staring into the setting sun, braved the dust, and

Gritting their teeth against the drought,

They lost their children to the prairies’ grip

Grimly facing the taunts of neighbors who called them “those Germans”

When to be German was to be a Nazi

While their accents never fit in

Just like their shoes.

 

What kind of shoes do you wear?

What kind of shoes did your father wear?

What kind of shoes did your grandmother wear?

I want to know.

 

Some people wear ballerinas and brogues, bast shoes and brogans

Others trod in trainers, Tsarouhis, tiger head shoes, and toe shoes

Pampooties, peeptoe shoes, peranakans, peshaawaris, platform shoes, pointininis

And still others wear silver shoes, slingbacks, slip on shoes, slippers,

Sneakers, snow shoes, spool heels, stiletto heels, sailing shoes.

Moccasins and winklepickers, Mojaris and wellingtons, Mules and wedges

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Some people wear moccasins that have seen the dust of trails

And the tears of those trails where millions died while weeping and walking

A convenient quiet massacre

 

Some little girls wear red leather tarkasin on their wedding day

Feet curling with fear  while they say yes to a man three times their age

Who steals their past and their present and their future

 

Some people do not wear any shoes as they run

Panting and gasping through the jungle at night

While flames tongue the sky and gunshots pierce the silence

 

Some children wear crude heavy army boots

Whose marching beats out

Power

And plunder

And pain

And march them to destroy the ones who love them most

And themselves

 

Some children do not wear any shoes at all,

Since the explosion of the land mine that stole their father’s lives

Took their own feet as well

 

Some people took off their shoes before they stepped into the shower

The shower that stole the breaths of their shaved and shorn and shattered bodies

And all that was left was—

Shoes

 

Some babies wore tiny soft shoes, wrapped onto tiny soft feet

When under an Eastern moon their skulls were bashed against the tree

The Killing Tree, they called it

By soldiers with hearts of rubber wearing shoes of rubber tires.

Destroy them by their roots, they said.

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What kind of shoes do you wear?

What kind of shoes did your father wear?

What kind of shoes did your grandmother wear?

I want to know.

 

Can I wear your shoes?

 

I cannot wear your shoes

They were not made for me.

 

But I can wear my mother and my father’s shoes

I can wear my ancestors’ shoes

And when I wear their shoes, I can know a little bit

A little bit

Of what it means to be invisible on the margin, the edge

To be born inconveniently.

To dread the knock on the door in the middle of the night

To lie haggard and hungry on a boat adrift

To live in a land where tongues cannot curl around strange sounds

And the name carried is synonymous with enemy.

To have fathers turn upon daughters and sons turn upon mothers

To bury children under a scorching sky

In a strange land

 

Perhaps I can know,

A little bit

When I wear their shoes

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Rumpelstiltskin

Almost three years ago, I posted this story. Recently, because of some research I’ve been doing at school, it came to mind again, so I’m reblogging it. Share on, and pray.

insearchofabrook

rumpelstiltskin-story-1Many of us know the story of Rumpelstiltskin and of the girl who was taken by the king and forced to spin straw into gold. It has a happy ending. But what we don’t know is that the story of the princess and Rumpelstiltskin is still lived out in thousands of places in the modern world. Here is a retelling of the story.

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom where jungles grew thick and green in the hills, and mountain-fed streams roamed wild and bold down rocky slopes where elephants and tigers ran free, there lived a girl whose name was Ruthai.

Ruthai lived with her family in the mountain villages, and she was more beautiful than the full moon on a midsummer night, or the brilliant splash of waves on rocks in the midday sun. Her raven tresses fell thick and long to her waist, and her eyes…

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Child That Never Really Was Mine 2

It’s now close to two years that I saw him last. Be was my first student at Wisdom Tree Home, and the one that left the most lasting imprint on my heart. I stumbled across a picture of him yesterday and floods of memories came back. Here is a poem I posted two years ago of him. I felt it would be appropriate to post it again.

*************

I miss you, I miss you, child of my heart

(Child that never really was mine)

Eyes so deep you’d think you’d drown

Drown in those tears of salty brine.

But child, child, I miss those hands

Brown and small that clung to my own

Clung to my hands and held to my heart

But now I hold alone.

************

The last time I saw you, child of mine

You looked so fragile and skinny and small

And I don’t know if I’ll ever again

Walk this way and hear you call

But child, child, I’ll never, forget

The way you hugged me that one last time

Child, I love you, no words can say

(Child that never really was mine).

-June 2015

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I Do Not Understand

I do not understand how there is no fear in love

Mine must not be perfect, because for me

Love has always held an element of fear


A fear of losing, a fear of a light snuffed out

Fading quickly into the cruel, cold darkness

Of unleashed desire. That, for you, I fear.


When I see that light in your eyes, little girlIMG_6100

That quick smile glowing, laughter rippling free

I love and I fear- so fiercely. For you.


That light of girlhood- of pigtails and pink

Of hugs and Jesus songs sung in the breath snatching wind

That light must never be the red light of the street


But I am not God, therefore I fear for you

Because my love is not perfect in trust and in the power

Of the greater Love that overshadows us


And I bare my teeth at the angry world around us

That wants to smother light into darkness

And let only fear, and not love be the guiding star.


Show me, Lord, how perfect love casts out fear,

Because I do not understand.

Rumpelstiltskin

rumpelstiltskin-story-1Many of us know the story of Rumpelstiltskin and of the girl who was taken by the king and forced to spin straw into gold. It has a happy ending. But what we don’t know is that the story of the princess and Rumpelstiltskin is still lived out in thousands of places in the modern world. Here is a retelling of the story.

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom where jungles grew thick and green in the hills, and mountain-fed streams roamed wild and bold down rocky slopes where elephants and tigers ran free, there lived a girl whose name was Ruthai.

Ruthai lived with her family in the mountain villages, and she was more beautiful than the full moon on a midsummer night, or the brilliant splash of waves on rocks in the midday sun. Her raven tresses fell thick and long to her waist, and her eyes were as large and lustrous as the starry Eastern sky on a lonely night. She ran as wild as the elephants and tigers on the jungle slopes of her mountain home and swung with the monkeys on vines that hung like canopies over the entire forest and swam with the fish in the crystal waters of mountain streams. Yet though she was as wild as the hills, her heart was good and pure and strong and she loved her mother and father as much as she loved her animal friends.

But as in all fairy tales there must be a pain and a rending  and an end to all of that childhood joy, and one day  Ruthai’s father fell into hard times. The time came when creditors came from the city, demanding payment for loans he had taken. There was nothing he could do. The only thing left was to sell his house, leaving his family destitute and alone on the hillside.

When the creditors left, with the warning that they would return in three days for the money, Ruthai crept to her father’s side.

“You cannot do this, father! You and I can survive on the mountains, but not Mother and the 2 babies! They will die when the cool season comes! Listen, I know what must be done!”

And so it came to past that when the creditors returned, Ruthai left her beloved mountains and travelled with them to the city to work for them and redeem her father.

But the creditors were cruel and heartless, and the little gold Ruthai was able to make while spinning cloth in the looms of the factory was not enough to satisfy them.

“We need more!” They shouted. “What little you’re making is hardly enough to support yourself, much less pay off the debts of your father!”

Ruthai began to eat less so she could give more money to the creditors and she pawned all she owned, but it still wasn’t enough to satisfy them.

“You lazy good for nothing girl!” They yelled when she brought them her week’s wages.  “Spinning cloth will never pay for your father’s debts! What kind of girl are you who is not even able to provide for her family? If you don’t bring in triple this amount next time, we will take away your father’s house and your family will live like animals on the mountainside!”

Ruthai went home brokenhearted. She threw herself on the bed and sobbed herself to sleep. She would never be able to bring them the money, even if she starved herself to death.

As Ruthai slept that night, she awoke suddenly when a figure dressed in gay clothing came gliding into the room. She caught her breath at the sight and sat up quickly.

“Who are you? Who are you?” she asked, pulling her bedclothes around her neck in fear.

Moonlight broke through a patch of clouds and light spilled into the room, illuminating the dark face of the figure. It was a man, his features sharp, his tight lips pulled into a benign smile.

“Me? My name is Rumpelstiltskin,” he replied.

“Why are you here?” Ruthai asked still trembling.

“I am here because you are in trouble.”

“What does that matter to you?”

“It matters because I care when people are in trouble and there is nothing they can do.”

“But… but there is nothing you can do to help me! I’ve sold everything I own to give money to the creditors and I have nothing else, nothing else to give!”

The man smiled down at her and raised his eyebrows in question. His voice dropped to a whisper. “Are you quite so sure that you have nothing else to give?”

Ruthai shook her head, half sobbing again. “I am sure. I have nothing else to sell.”

The man’s eyes grew deeper and more sinister as he came closer and looked Ruthai deep in the eyes. “No, you have not sold all you own. I will show you how you can spin gold enough and more for those your father owes.”

“Spin gold? But how can I? There is no way to spin gold, and I have no spinning wheel to spin with in the first place. I have sold all I have.”

“No, you have not. There is one thing you have not yet sold—-your virginity.

And so it happened that every night in her room, Ruthai spun her body into gold for the creditors and redeemed her father from his debt, while she became more and more imprisoned every day.

 Every fairy tale has a happy ending. But will hers?

Tell your friends and your neighbors and your church what is happening all across the world, when women are forced to spin their bodies into gold.

Pray for these women, especially the women of Asia, who because of cultural traditions are vulnerable and at high risk for trafficking.

 Pray for the men who buy the gold.

And pray for the children who are lost because of the making of that gold.