Passage of the Ferrywoman

So slowly she moves across the courtyard
where the bricks are turning violet,
where a sparrow darts among exhausted leaves.
She glides as though she has been coming forever,
as though she has walked from Peru
carrying small children until they are too large
and she too weak -- through Nicaragua, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Mexico, across the century itself,
gathering time in her pockets like bits of obsidian.
She walks slower, slower with the weight,
the soft clicking, and comes toward us in failing sun.
She sees us but doesn't gesture,
yet her greeting arrives as light
wraps her thin body, drips from her spoken word.

We await her, watching through a window,
seeing our reflected faces wait
for light to overtake the body,
for the memory of this long approach,
the bright black jewels
from decades as healer, as teacher,
squeezing mercy or wisdom from powerful men --
for light from a shimmering prayer for justice,
a ceaseless hammering wind.

Michael Lauchlan was a student in the Warren Wilson MFA Writing Program in Detroit, Michigan when this poem appeared. He had published his poetry in And the Business Goes to Pieces (Fallen Angel Press, 1981). Sister Catherine Concannon, S.L., died in January 1987. She was the founder of the Detroit-Windsor Refugee Coalition.

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