Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ironic Advent #11B: Seven Sevens and an Envoy for Juan Diego*




Just last year Jill said
that nothing was finer or ever would be again
than the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe
in her local church, in Florida,
with the mariachis and the dancing
Alright, I’m not sure she said dancing,
but this is not journalism; shoot me when it is.

So I took a trek, I made a pilgrimage,
I mean, I left the Protestant comforts of home,
and drove fifty miles on 30 West to Warsaw, Indiana that is,
where the closest shrine to Nuestra Señora obviously was,
having read about it in the Catholic Directory if there is such a thing
and met at midnight with what felt like half a million Mexicans,
I mean at least a hundred of us standing and only one of us a very tall gringo.

I knew there would be mass, but in my ignorance
I knew so little how (so) much more to expect.
The singing, the children, the costumes, the flowers, families together at the shrine,
the processionals, the professionals, the prayers,
and, obviously, my heart ripped out of my chest and blood all over the pew.
My mother, my father, every love I've lost, which pretty much includes them all,
walking through the door, zombies too now, empty and bloody as hell,

Finding me there, then, together, we are down the aisle,
nuestros corazones primas all turned to flowers in our hands--
we knelt together, music all around,
a song to the lady, the one Diego wrote,
Las Mañanitas, a birthday song for the precious one you love:
"Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció
ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió"

And it's not exactly a miracle that everything smells like roses,
since there are perhaps a New Year's Day parade's worth of them
piled together under her feet. And, yes, sometimes the celestial music
is slightly out of tune or the trumpets are just obviously showing off.
But it really doesn't matter about the roses or the guitars or the outfits
because you find yourself mumbling,
“I've been bleeding a long time, a long long time.”

And it goes without saying that this is the lady
with eyes like the western ocean and scars like Barranca del Cobre
who once said, “you may touch my feet my pilgrim
but my thighs belong to Padre Nuestro en los cielos,”
who fed you berries by the road by the river your sorrows looking up into the dream of her face
by the mountain by your childhood by the constellations,
who even now weeps for your loneliness.

And then, so as not to die here,
you get up from the kneeler and retrace your hungry steps,
go forward for the bread, though they’re stingy with the wine.
After, in the unfinished basement, you share tamales and abuelita chocolate and dancing
with folks you'd swear you've seen before.
It’s clear they knew your father better than you did, though they were born after he died.
For they knew to call him Carlos, which you were not allowed to say.

Adios, then, but you know now where you are if not yet who you are.
And, perhaps, a little, why you came this way.
To bear witness, to these, los preciosos campesinos,
each with a message from the lady,
for the powers that be, for the white priests in dark robes--
the future is flowers,
hiding in a poor man's cloak. 

*revised and re-posted from December 12, 2012


  1. Quite exuberant and lovely, Joe. Even the non-chocolate parts.

  2. We've been there and viewed the tilma on the occasion of the beatification of Juan Diego. The devotion is palpable with many travelling there on their knees. Thank
    you for this meditation.
    ("There" is Mexico City.)