As I was walking by St. Finbar's Church,
I heard the organ and the evening mass.
I heard the converts in the basement sing.
I heard their voices as they rose and fell.
It seemed, in this our world, that all was well.
But, recalling then the history
Of those who sang of faith and mystery,
Remembering then, how their ancestors died
And for a bit of peace and justice cried,
I knew this world of ours was far from well,
More distant, yes, from heaven than from hell.
I heard the Guatemalans in the basement sing,
I saw some coming down the street to join –
In Sunday best, a little family...
I saw them cross themselves before the church
And quietly enter, by the side, to sing.
And I remembered then, how they had fled
Their country, ravaged by the endless wars,
How cash and arms had streamed from here to south,
How many then were hunted, massacred...
How those surviving lived from hand to mouth,
How many homeless ones had grieved alone...
And so they traveled north, where money went,
And some had papers, others never did.
They took up humble trades and quietly hid,
For they were quiet people, most of them –
Except on Sundays, when they donned these clothes
And gathered in the basements, there to sing.
A simple story, told by a simpleton.
The truth, you can be sure, is more complex.
But you will have to sit and talk with them
In Spanish or in Quiché. Then you'll glimpse
The many threads that weave that history
Of silent ones – of faith – and mystery.
For these are “Indians” – not my Asian kind,
But folk of these, the western continents.
And those, who've traveled far, from Central Am,
Are quiet folk, of stature small and slight.
But when you talk with them, you'll see, at times,
Some traces left – of a soft and ancient light...
And all the weight of ages – Maya, Spain,
The persecutions and the silent pain,
This past, you'll feel – or hear in cadences,
The muted tones of those who've suffered much,
But haven't walled themselves; they're forest folk,
And used to sounds of death – and silences.
So when they sing of Jesus on the cross,
They know of what they sing, for they have seen.
And when they sing of resurrection, they
Have tears that flow – as those, who're grieving, pray.
Far from their homes, in a foreign land, they sing,
The ones they left at home – or gone – remembering...
I heard them singing in the basement and
I briefly thought that I could understand...
And for a moment, there, by Finbar's Church,
My heart was touched and filled, with grace divine,
As pastors poured the sacrificial wine.