A Poem to Close

One of my last days living in El Paso, my house mates and I sat in Sister Mary Margaret’s home with about 5 or 6 Sisters/co-members.  We circled around Sister Elisa’s chile con queso and piled this delicious gold of hers onto our plated chips. Periodically, her dog trotted about the circle of humans in the living room before going back to her human always. We talked and munched and just before it was time to sit around a table for the dinner they had prepared for us, they offered us each a gift and a blessing. We were each given colorful, small purses made by a nonprofit and women’s co-op, Centro Santa Catalina, in Juarez. I rubbed the bright patterns on mine as they took turns reading kind words and wishes as they held their hands over us from their respective spots in the room.  Afterward, we gathered around the dining table. The dings of utensils on plate and chatter between bites filled the room until it was time for us to go and finish our packing. We parted with hugs and I left feeling warm.

On their last day in El Paso as a Loretto Volunteer cohort, Amelie and her housemates pop some party poppers with Sister Liz and Sister Mary Margaret.

Another, similar moment of warmth kindled by love came days later when, as a cohort, we all made our back to the Motherhouse. We had time to reflect, rest, and just have fun with each other before we each went our separate ways or stayed on for another year, but with a different cohort. At one point during the retreat, we were asked to come together and write a collection of poems together.

This was a fun one. We each started with one line on our own individual piece of paper and then passed it along to be added on to by the person sitting next to us. From there, each subsequent writer would fold back the previous lines, so the following writer would have only the line of the person before them to go off of in creating the next line of the poem.  The process was timed but the energy in the room ricocheted between slightly frazzled to giggly.

An altar at closing retreat, featuring blurry polaroids of 2018-2019 Loretto Volunteers and a basket of bread and a cup of wine to be shared for a coming activity.

We read them out loud when each poem had come full circle.  We all laughed and laughed at the silliness in some of the poems – like experiences with eating dairy while being lactose intolerant or failed attempts at lawncare. We sat quietly or with resounding mhmm’s for the poems that spoke to the real grit and pain and joy of this past year – to the difficulty of living in community or the work done or the discoveries made about ourselves and the world around us.

These sweet times stayed fresh in my mind in the days after closing retreat and after parting ways with people I’ve grown so close to over this past year. And so, in an attempt to close this past year as a Loretto Volunteer in writing too, I’ve pieced together one more poem born from that time sitting around a circle with my cohort from this past year.

I pulled my lines from the group poems to form a new one, placing them where I thought they fit best.  Because some of the group poems were very different in topic and tone from each other, informing my own lines, I’ve since added a couple words or phrases to string together my original lines from each of the 11 poems to make a bit more sense.  I tried not to add too many new words or phrases as a challenge to myself and so that the poem consists mostly of what came from within me when surrounded by the wonderful folks of this cohort of mine.

Desert Willow Dwelling

Started out sticky like the stickies in our yard.
Put on those slippers
or take off more clothes.
But watch for the roaches.
To give a squash and pray for their soul?
Or let them out back, to see them once more.
They’ll skitter towards the desert willow,
Whose name I now hold dear.
Water it or watch it,
you’ll wonder how it grows.

Sitting around a table, often.
Sometimes, quiet.
Still enough and you can
feel tiny ear canal hairs sway.
Maybe with just a word or a glance,
you can have the hug or the distance you need.
Humans, sharing or taking or giving
love or pain.
But after all, humans.
The creators of change.

Special thanks to Amelie for sharing her service journey with our CVN community this year as a Serving with Sisters Contributor.

Amelie Rode is a volunteer with the Loretto Volunteer Program and a CVN Serving with Sisters Contributor. This blog series is sponsored by our VOCARE Initiative, thanks to the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. 

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